Attorney seeks records after Alexander firing

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Posted August 6, 2021 | By Jennifer Hunt Murty

Shane Alexander, the former Ocala Fire Chief, left, talks with his attorney, Paul Donnelly of Donnelly Gross, right, during the Ocala City Council meeting on July 6. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

An attorney for former Ocala Fire Rescue Chief Shane Alexander recently requested a slew of public records related to Alexander’s termination.

Paul Donnelly of Donnelly and Gross sent the request to the city on July 30. The request asked for the calendar, emails, text messages, phone records and timesheets, and correspondence for City Manager Sandra Wilson. He also requested emails, text messages, memos reports originating with Assistant City Manager Ken Whitehead, Assistant City Manager Bill Kauffman and new Assistant City Manager Peter Lee regarding any of the allegations that led to Alexander’s termination.

In part, Alexander was fired on June 25 for actively campaigning to replace Ocala City Council members so he could be appointed city manager, according to his termination letter.

The letter also cited an excessive amount of idling time in his city vehicle, no record of city phone usage and poorly managed internal grant procedures.

The move set off a firestorm of criticism, including some on the Ocala City Council to fire Wilson, who authorized Alexander’s termination. The council, however, voted 3-2 to keep Wilson as city manager on July 6.

The July 30 request also asked for a complete copy of Alexander’s personnel file, evidence related to the city’s dismissal of Alexander, and a copy of city policies Alexander allegedly violated.

Donnelly’s requests are covered by Chapter 119 of Florida Statutes which require all state, county, and municipal agencies to retain and provide records to be accessible for inspection and copying by any person.

Public records include all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, or other material created during the transaction of official business.

The public records requirement was an issue mentioned in a July 6 city auditor review of Alexander’s termination. The auditor observed that Alexander’s use of a personal cell phone to primarily conduct city business subjected Alexander’s phone activity to an information request under Florida’s Sunshine Law.

The auditor noted that the city provided department heads cell phones so that the city could comply with the Sunshine Law if someone made a public records request.

A recent request for Alexander’s cell phone records related to city business could not be fulfilled because the city did not have access to Alexander’s private cell phone as he was no longer an employee, according to Ashely Dobbs, a city spokeswoman.

Alexander did not respond to a request by the Gazette to voluntarily provide the records.

Attorneys for Alexander have indicated they could file suit over the termination. However, no official action has been filed as of Aug. 4.

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