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Criminal complaint filed over Orange County commissioners' controversial texts

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The state attorney's office confirmed it's now looking into a criminal complaint involving text messages some Orange County commissioners received during a controversial vote.

Last fall, the board decided against asking voters whether private companies in the county should be forced to pay sick time, but Kathi Belich learned that texts that were sent prior to the vote could have broken the law.

Former state House candidate Sean Ashby asked State Attorney Jeff Ashton to investigate whether Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and commissioners violated county rules, codes or state laws by preventing a vote on the sick pay issue last year and by deleting texts they got before killing the referendum without including those messages in the meeting minutes.

Ashby got the conversation started shortly after he filed a criminal complaint with the state attorney's office, targeting Jacobs and other commissioners.

But WFTV learned Ashton already asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into the texting issue almost two weeks ago, and the issue is still ongoing.

"Let's get some answers. I'm not looking for a particular outcome," said Ashby. "You know, if it is found the board is found to have acted within their rules that is wonderful. It may come out the other way."

Jacobs' only public comments about the incident came during Tuesday's meeting.

"Hopefully in the coming year, this will all become clear, but the Sunshine Law is pretty broad," she said.

Jacobs went on to release the following statement:

“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.”