Ashton: Orange Co. leaders broke law in 'textgate' scandal

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ORLANDO, Fla. - According to a report released by State Attorney Jeff Ashton on Wednesday, Orange County leaders, including Mayor Teresa Jacobs, broke the law by deleting text messages that were considered public record.

The investigation looked into the text messages sent and received by some commissioners, just before the crucial sick time vote.

The issue involved whether commissioners Jennifer Thompson, John Martinez, Scott Boyd and Fred Brummer broke the law when deleting texts from lobbyists last year while voting on the mandatory sick-leave proposal, officials said.

Jacobs called for a revamp of county policies, but she, too, was implicated in the September 2012 incident.

Ashton held a news conference with The Florida Department of Law Enforcement to explain the six-month investigation into what some refer to as "textgate."

During the meeting, lobbyists working for companies that opposed the measure sent text messages and called county leaders hoping to defeat the measure, which was eventually defeated.

Proponents of the sick-time measure claimed commissioners deleted the text messages to hide what happened that day, but commissioners claimed they didn't know the texts should have been maintained as public records.

Thompson exchanged dozens of texts with a Disney lobbyist right before casting her vote, but deleted the texts and claimed they were only personal, officials said.

Still, Ashton said the messages should have been kept and the law was broken.

Brummer told Channel 9 on Wednesday that he hasn’t seen the report but still doesn't think he violated a law.

The State Attorney’s Office will now seek $500 in civil fines from each of the accused commissioners, according to Channel 9's Jeff Deal.  If the fines are not paid, the State Attorney's Office could consider filing a civil infraction with the court system.