Saturday, May 3, 2014

Alleged Texting During Arbitration

The Orlando firefighters' union is going to battle with the city over a cell phone the deputy fire chief is accused of using to text witnesses during an arbitration hearing. The City of Orlando maintains it doesn't have access to texts, and the union couldn't inspect the phone because it had been lost. Last month, the city claimed the phone was either lost or stolen and filed a police report indicating the phone was sent to city hall through interoffice mail, but it never arrived. Apparently, Sprint, the city's carrier, is unable to provide the content of the messages. In a circuit court complaint filed this week in Orange County, the union said the city provided a list of incoming and outgoing texts from the phone, but 411 of 520 messages were redacted. Firefighters sued the city for failing to turn over text messages from the deputy chief's phone. They are requesting a judge to find the city in violation of Florida's public records law. Union leaders accuse the deputy chief of improperly texting with witnesses during the arbitration. Reportedly, phone numbers belonging to police and firefighters are exempt from the public records law, and city officials say that's why they were redacted. The lawsuit asks that a judge privately review the text information to determine whether city officials were right to redact so much information or have violated Florida's Sunshine Law. It will be interesting to see if this story gains traction like the Orange County Commission's "textgate." The private nature of arbitration hearings will also be in question with the public lawsuit. It remains to be seen whether there was witness tampering or spoliation of electronic evidence that could effect the outcome of the award. See stories here-- and and