Text-tracking system to make Orange County text messages and emails public



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County is providing easier access to commissioners' texts and emails.

The county just bought a new text-tracking system, nearly a year after leaders were accused of deleting messages during a meeting about the sick-time ordinance.

The technology won't cover personal phones.

County leaders said they stressed to everyone that all messages about county business are public record.

Rafael Mena, chief information officer for Orange County, said 487 of the county's employees have smartphones.

All of their texts are going to be under the microscope of public record.

The county-owned phones were just linked to a $97,000 system called TextGuard which archives texts.

Before, messages simply disappeared, because most service providers don't have the time or space to save them.

Mena said the new system does not cover employees' personal phones.

"Every Orange County employee was trained on the public records law," Mena said.

Mayor Teresa Jacobs demanded the system be put in place after she and her fellow commissioners were accused of texting during a meeting about the sick-time ordinance.

The West Orange Chamber of Commerce president, who opposed the sick-time measure and is a good friend of Jacobs, texted the mayor that the supporters had their numbers wrong.

The commerce president wrote, "They are all confused. Not you. Keep smiling."

Jacobs wrote back, "Thank you so much for being there tonight and for coming to my defense! I don't say it often enough but I am very grateful for your friendship."

The mayor just released a statement which said, in part, "These changes in our practices are consistent with the high standards we have established for transparency and open government."