UPDATE: Ashton Recommends $500 Fines for Jacobs, Commissioners in 'Textgate' Investigation
August 28, 2013 | WMFE - State Attorney Jeff Ashton says Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and county commissioners broke Florida law by deleting text messages sent during a public hearing. The hearing concerned a proposed ballot measure last year requiring employers to provide paid sick time.
[Photo: State Attorney Jeff Ashton (left) and Danny Banks of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement]
During the hearing Jacobs and some commissioners exchanged text messages with lobbyists who opposed the sick time measure. They also deleted some of the messages.
Ashton says the messages were public record. But he says he's not surprised the mayor and commissioners didn't know that, and there's no evidence otherwise.
"It really is a problem of law catching up with technology, and I think that the controversy itself did a lot to improve our understanding of text messages and how they are public records."
Ashton is recommending $500 fines.
Stephanie Porta, executive director of Organize Now, one of the organizations that led the sick time campaign, says the $500 fines aren't enough.
She says it's a "drop in the bucket to what the citizens lost when they lost the chance to vote on earned sick time, an issue that they legally petitioned their government for. And at every single step they were let down by their local government."
The mayor and commissioners say the text messages did not influence their vote against putting the sick time measure on the ballot.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted the investigation.
In his report Ashton singled out Jacobs, Commissioner Scott Boyd, Commissioner Fred Brummer, Commissioner Jennifer Thompson and former Commissioner John Martinez.
Jacobs could not be reached for comment.