Orange County leaders settle 'textgate' controversy
ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -
Orange County leaders have settled a civil lawsuit brought against them regarding how text messages were sent, received and deleted during a controversial vote held in September of 2012 regarding the placement of a mandatory paid sick time measure on the November ballot.
Citizens for a Greater Orange County alleged that there were open-government violations when text messages were exchanged between county officials and lobbyists or other opponents of the ballot referendum. The measure was ultimately defeated, and the civil suit was filed in late 2012.
Following an investigation, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and four commissioners violated state law when they deleted those text messages that were considered public records. Jacobs and Commissioner Scott Boyd, along with Commission Fred Brummer, Commission Jennifer Thompson and Commissioner John Martinez, each agreed to pay a $500 civil fine. Their lawyers said the payment was no admission of wrongdoing.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that recently filed documents in the settlement of the lawsuit were signed by a lead Citizens' plaintiff, and each of the officials accused of open government violations: Commissioners Fred Brummer, Jennifer Thompson and former Commissioner John Martinez, along with Mayor Teresa Jacobs' Chief of Staff Graciela Noriega Jacoby. Each defendant has agreed to pay $90,000 as part of the settlement.