Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino may have violated Florida’s public records law, with personal emails sent to an advisor to the reality TV show “Party Down South.” The State Attorney’s Office is reviewing the allegation.
Escambia County Attorney Allison Rogers says it all began with a records request to her office from a Doug Underhill, who was opposed to “Party Down South” filming at Pensacola Beach.
“We log that into our software we have, which is designed to help track public records requests and identifies once those responses have been provided to the requesting party,” said Rogers. “And that software assigns to all the potential people who might have those subject records that they need to gather those records.”
That includes county commissioners. Rogers says her office determined that Valentino had used his private email account for county business -- a violation of the county’s technology policy – but she calls it an “oversight’ on Valentino’s part. As for the Commissioner:
“This is much ado about nothing,” said Valentino. “I have complied with the State Attorney’s request, with everything as quickly as I was made aware of it.”
Using his private iPad, Valentino emailed Paul Sinor -- who teaches screenwriting at the University of West Florida and had been working with the producers of the “Jersey Shore” – type reality show. One email from early February asked Sinor to use Valentino’s personal email address. Valentino contends it was a glitch in his I-pad.
“The sent the email to my county commission email address, and hit the button on my iPad,” said Valentino. “What happened was, on a few of them, it pasted in my personal email address on the reply. Apparently, when you have two different email addresses on your iPad, there can be a situation where the default email can supersede the email outbound you intend.”
Amid growing opposition to “Party Down South” – primarily through social media – the producers pulled the plug on filming at Pensacola Beach. Valentino also became an opponent of the project when he learned of its format and content.
Meantime, he says the email glitch is getting fixed by no longer using his personal iPad for county business. Instead, he plans to ask for a county-issued device.
This is not the first election-year legal issue for Gene Valentino. In 2010 he was indicted by a grand jury, accused of taking a campaign donation at his county office in November of 2009. A judge dismissed the case just before the 2010 primary and Valentino was re-elected with 59 percent of the vote.