Orange Co. mayor wants tougher texting rules for leaders



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs announced a proposal for tough new texting rules for county leaders Thursday.

Last fall, Jacobs and commissioners received texts on their personal cellphones during a controversial vote on sick pay.

Now, Jacobs wants to stop that, and she talked with Channel 9’s Jeff Deal about the issue on Thursday.

Jacobs said preserving text messages and voicemails as part of the public record is difficult and expensive, especially from personal phones, but she believes policies need to change.

“I’m asking our board to step up and adopt the highest policies in the state of Florida,” she said.

She’s now proposing revised lobbying laws when it comes to county commissioners.

The issue stems from controversy surrounding a September vote related to paid sick leave. Commissioners received text messages from lobbyists on their personal phones, but some of those messages got deleted.

Because of concerns about open government, the mayor wants to ban commissioners and their staff from using personal email, text messages and voicemail for county business.

She also wants to require lobbyists to register with the county within seven days anytime they contact a commissioner by phone.

Finally, Jacobs wants to ban lobbyists from contacting commissioners by voicemail or text message altogether.

"This is asking the fox to guard the henhouse,” said Maria McCluskey of Citizens For a Greater Orange County. “It's too little, too late."

McCluskey said she believes the policies would be difficult to police.

County Commissioner Scott Boyd told WFTV he has concerns about how it could be controlled, too.           
Commissioner Fred Brummer said Jacobs’ overreaction is absurd and that they proposals could make it much more difficult to help people in Orange County.

Jacobs, however, believes she will have enough votes to get the policies passed. She plans to bring it up with commissioners officially next week.