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Local Color

Best Girl Talk

Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson and the glory of textgate

Not that any of us were under the illusion that Orange County government wasn’t a well-lit one-stop shop for development, lobbyist and big business concerns – “sprawl” is practically our middle name – but few could have expected the brazen cluelessness with which the county’s elected representatives handled their iPads and iPhones at the beginning of the seemingly never-ending sick-time saga. On Sept. 11, 2012, during a six-hour public hearing on a local sick-time ordinance, commissioners gleefully ran afoul of Florida’s sunshine laws by privately discussing strategies on their devices with lobbyists while the public was talking. That blatant disregard for process was only heightened by the excuses Mayor Teresa Jacobs and her board used when records of their text messages were summoned, first directly, then through litigation. Our favorite came from ever-defiant Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, who insisted that her conversation with a Disney lobbyist was just “girl talk.” Hmm, well the “girl talk” that other commissioners and the mayor were having eventually led to the passage of pre-emptive legislation in Tallahassee that rendered the entire citizen-led sick-time initiative moot. Who knew girl talk could be so powerful?

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