Textgate II: Electric Boogaloo? – County raises questions by doing public business in the cloud

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Sure, he may be cruising through a chamber-hop bus tour in Orlando today, and sure it will probably rain, but we already knew about our favorite plaything Gov. Rick Scott’s Sunshine problems, anyway.

A Tallahassee judge last month ordered Google and Yahoo to fork over account information that Scott and his staff use when they conduct public business on private email. It’s their Internet version of a dark, smoke-filled room, one full of whiskey but empty on transparency. You can’t see anything in there!

But his Republican pal – and friend to many a lobbyist – Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, may be snared in an even stickier on-line web.Much like Scott, Jacobs is being accused of using Dropbox to handle public policy issues, and possibly not sharing all those cloudy conversations with the public. The file-sharing tool is increasingly common in the private sector (we use it here!), but it raises all sorts of disclosure and access issues when only a handful of folks in government have the super-double-secret password to it.

WESH 2-News’ award-winning tall-drink-of-investigative-water Greg Fox covered this potentially awkward governing out-of-the-Sunshine situation, after Organize Now asked Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie to audit how Jacobs’ handles this amorphous electronic cloud.

To be clear, there’s always been uneasy murmurs in the Hallowed County Hall that Jacobs uses this “second set of books,” as Orangize Now’s Stephanie Porta called it. So really, this is just a case of someone finally daring to utter out loud that the Ethics Queen is naked again (in case her $500 civil fine for breaking an open government law slipped your mind).

Jacobs told Fox that the very notion she has hid something is nonsense. (Because, after all, how could anyone who deletes texts from her cell phone right after a controversial meeting even be suspected of such a thing? She recovered and gave them out, after all, something her chief of staff had a bit more trouble with. Everybody here is completely trustworthy!)

But to her credit, Jacobs – visibly shaken by the mere suggestion of impropriety – clutched her pearls and told Fox that she welcomes an investigation, if only to make all this cloud cloudiness go away. Of course no such thing would be needed if she invited Fox and other media to use her login and password – since it’s public property anyway – and let them trudge through whatever video, audio and paper files she hasn’t already tried to delete.

Like that’s going to happen.

Haynie told Organize Now that since there could be law-breaking going on, it’s outside her audit powers. So she sent the issue to State Attorney Jeff Ashton, who’s on a bit of an ass-kicking tour lately taking down corruption within the region’s old toll agency. Will Jacobs come under a second open government investigation in her first term as mayor? Either way, there’s a weird whiff emanating from these two incidents with Scott and Jacobs: Do all Republicans use that “second set of books’’ to get stuff done? (Also, haven't they always?) Jacobs hasn’t opened her Dropbox for Fox yet. And we’ve yet to receive our invitation, probably because we’ve heard that we’re not exactly on the mayor’s Christmas list.

Meanwhile, we tried on some catchy hashtags over the weekend (#openthebox, #foxbox, #dropboxgate, #Pandorasdropbox) as we waited for the rest of Orlando’s media to wake up and discover that Texgate II: Electric Boogaloo might have just opened in theaters last week on WESH News while nobody was paying attention. Popcorn at the ready!

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