Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton said Tuesday he has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate possible criminal violations in the textgate scandal that has engulfed Orange County officials.
In a brief statement released by his office, Ashton said he met with the FDLE on Jan. 17 to request the probe. “This office will make no further comments until the inquiry is completed,” the statement said.
Several Orange County leaders deleted text messages from their personal cell phones during a Sept. 11 hearing on a sick-time ballot measure. Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Commissioner Scott Boyd say they recovered and released their texts, but some officials say they have lost personal-phone messages that could be public records if they involved official business.
The group behind the sick time measure sued, alleging that commissioners violated state public-record and open-meeting laws by exchanging text messages with lobbyists and other opponents of the measure. Commissioners voted to keep the initiative off the fall ballot despite 50,000 petition signatures calling for a referendum.
Until Tuesday, Jacobs said an investigation would be premature since the issue was already in civil court. But after Ashton’s announcement, Jacobs welcomed the probe.