There’s been a major development in the ongoing battle in Summerfield over Mayor Gail Dunham’s emails.
The town has for months been asking for the mayor to turn over all emails on her private server related to town business. On Tuesday, Dec. 11, Summerfield Town Manager Scott Whitaker announced that Summerfield was releasing all of the mayor’s emails that the town has in its possession.
Dunham has refused to hand over those emails – citing the fact that she had asked that the town release the emails in its possession first. She has maintained all along that, if she released her emails first, her political opponents would rake her over the coals if she accidently missed one.
Dunham has also stated repeatedly that, if the town revealed the emails it had, she would release hers.
On Tuesday afternoon, Dunham said that now she would release her emails.
“This is what I’ve been asking for all along,” Dunham said. “I have, for months and months, asked Scott to release them all.”
Summerfield has experienced a great deal of political strife throughout 2018 – largely as a result of a residency challenge to former Summerfield Town Councilmember Todd Rotruck, Dunham’s political ally who was removed from the council after a successful residency challenge. In April, the Guilford County Board of Elections found that Rotruck lived in Greensboro not Summerfield.
In the wake of that and other political battles in the town, citizens made a large number of public records requests – including multiple requests for the emails in Dunham’s private email account related to town business.
A statement posted by Whitaker on the town’s website Tuesday along with a link to the emails, pointed out that the link does not include all the emails Dunham has in her possession: “The core emails requested have still not been provided to the town and Mayor Dunham remains the custodian” it reads.
Dunham said that since the emails the town had in its possession have been posted, she hasn’t had time to review them, but she added that she would release her emails as soon as possible.
“I’m eager to do it,” the mayor said, adding that it would take her some time to collect them and make sure she had them all.
She said that task will be easier now that she will be able to cross-reference them with the emails the town just released.
The message from Whittaker posted on the town’s website along with the link to the emails stated: “The town has many open public records requests (Freedom of Information Act requests) that are outstanding in relation to emails from Mayor Gail Dunham. The purpose of this communication/link is to provide the release of the portion of those requests in the town’s possession.”
It adds, “The town has made significant efforts to provide all requested, town-related emails, but does not have access to those used by the mayor that reside on external servers, such as those from firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Largely, those requesting the mayor’s emails want those that are not on the town server that relate to town business.”
The emails released by the town cover the period between mid-December, 2017, when Dunham first took office, and early October 2018.
The release did not include “privileged/confidential communications.”
Summerfield Town Attorney Bill Hill is still reviewing a small number of the mayor’s emails that may be released later depending on his determination if they fall into that category.