Another round of text messages released from Orange County commissioners regarding a recent vote on a paid sick leave measure reveals another round of embarrassing findings.
So far, commissioners have made four separate releases of text messages sent by lobbyists before and on September 11, the day a decision was made not to put a sick leave question on the November ballot. Some lobbyists sent text messages to commissioners during that meeting. Now, a high-profile Republican leader is defending his actions to coordinate a plan to keep the sick leave issue off the ballot.
Some commissioners deleted some of those texts sent by lobbyists who were trying to thwart the plan. "It appears that we've lost the trust of the community and public. That's what we were elected to gain is their trust," said Tiffany Moore Russell.
One text getting the most attention was sent from Orange County Republican Chairman Lew Oliver to Commissioner Ted Edwards. Oliver writes, "To reconfirm for today. Fred (Brummer) will make the motion to continue on various grounds including confusion. John (Martinez) or Jennifer (Thompson) will second. The county attorney will agree you have that right."
When questioned about the text message, Oliver responded, "In a real respect, anyone who advocates for anything, whether a playground or to stop a nuclear waste dump, is trying to plan a meeting. You try to line up the votes, you count the noses."
In a statement sent to FOX 35, Commissioner Edwards wrote, "The text was unsolicited and would prefer not to have received it. There was a lot going on that day, and the text did not influence my vote. As you know, I voted against the continuance." He added, "As far as the subject matter of the texts, I do not know what communications took place between Mr. Oliver and other Commissioners and the Mayor."
Sick time leave supporters are now suing commissioners for all of their text messages related to the issue. Critics of the commissioners who voted against the plan want to know if commissioners used Oliver as a conduit to work around Florida's open meetings "Sunshine" laws.
"A conduit has to know they are a conduit and I had nothing to do with being a conduit," said Oliver. "No commissioner asked me to transmit information to another commissioner. No commissioner asked me to find out what any other commissioner was thinking."
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, in a statement sent a statement to FOX 35, indicated that Oliver did not share any information with her regarding how individual commissioners were likely to vote. "Nor did I ask, expect, authorize or suggest to him that he act as a conduit to exchange information with any other board members," she wrote. She added, "The statement contained in his text to Commissioner Edwards does not accurately reflect the conversation I had with him."