Orange County leaders, including Mayor Teresa Jacobs, violated the law by deleting text messages that were clearly public record, according a report released by State Attorney Jeff Ashton moments ago.
Jacobs and commissioners Fred Brummer, Jennifer Thompson and former Commissioner John Martinez each face $500 fines, which Ashton said could settle the issue. If they don’t agree, he said he would prosecute them.
“My conclusion, therefore, is that these text messages were public records and could only lawfully be disposed of pursuant to statute,” Ashton’s report says. “The statutory procedures in this case were not followed and, therefore, all of the officials who deleted text messages related to this issue violated Florida law.”
“Violation of any provision of the statute, regardless of intent or knowledge, constitutes a civil infraction punishable by a fine of up to five hundred dollars. It seems very clear to me this is the correct statute to apply and the correct punishment to seek in response to the actions of Mayor Jacobs, Commissioner Boyd, Commissioner Brummer, Commissioner Thompson and former Commissioner Martinez.”
The seven-month probe was launched by Ashton in January several Orange County leaders deleted text messages from their personal cellphones during a Sept. 11 hearing on a sick-time ballot measure.
Jacobs and Commissioner Scott Boyd say they recovered and released their texts, but several other top appointed and elected officials said 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.