FDLE Investigates Orange County 'Textgate'
January 29, 2013 | WMFE - Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs is responding to revelations that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the exchange of text messages between county commissioners and lobbyists during a public hearing last September. Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton announced in a statement Tuesday that he requested an inquiry more than a week ago into what he called "alleged criminal violations."
Ashton met with members of FDLE on January 17th and asked for an investigation after questions were raised about whether the texting - and some subsequent deleting - violated Florida’s broad public-records and open-meeting laws.
In a statement late Tuesday, Mayor Jacobs said, “The public deserves and expects a transparent Orange County government. The FDLE inquiry requested by the State Attorney should provide an independent review of the facts and I will do whatever I can to help expedite this process.”
The public hearing in question looked at putting on the November ballot a measure requiring many employers to give workers paid sick time.
Three of the four commissioners whose votes ultimately waylaid the effort - Scott Boyd, Fred Brummer, and Jennifer Thompson - were texting with lobbyists who opposed the sick time initiative during that meeting. And two of those commissioners, Brummer and Thompson, deleted some of those texts.
Thompson reported deleting 32 messages she exchanged with a Walt Disney World lobbyist during the meeting. Brummer said he deleted twelve, including nine texts exchanged with a Universal Orlando lobbyist, two with a lobbyist for Sea World, and one received from a Darden Restaurants lobbyist.
Neither Thompson nor Brummer have released the contents of the texts, but they both said the communications did not influence their vote.