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tate attorney Jeff Ashton: Orange County officials who deleted text messages broke the law

10:10 AM, Aug 28, 2013   |    comments
The investigation of the "textgate" scandal in Orange County is drawing reaction from all corners. Photo courtesy of WESH.com
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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - State Attorney Jeff Ashton says Orange County officials involved in the "textgate" scandal broke the law when they deleted text messages.

A WESH 2 News investigation prompted the probe of local leaders and deleted text messages.

Ashton's office released findings Wednesday morning of what his office discovered during a probe of Orange County's texting scandal.

In September, local Orange County Commissioners are said to have text messaged back and forth with lobbyists before a critical vote over earned sick time.

Most of those messages were deleted and the measure was blocked.

"The county pretty much threw up their hands and said, 'Well we can't retrieve those messages,' and so there was no holding those officials accountable," said Citizens for a Greater Orange County spokeswoman Stephanie Porta. "So we decided to expand the lawsuit and include those individuals."

The WESH 2 News investigation found that Commissioners Fred Brummer, Jennifer Thompson, former Commissioner John Martinez and Mayor Teresa Jacobs' chief of staff, deleted messages from the day of a public hearing, when the board shot down the sick pay referendum.

The county changed the way it saves records involving text messages.

Also on Wednesday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is expected to release what it found on several of the phones.

If commissioners broke the law, they could be charged with destruction of public records, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

WESH-TV

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