ORLANDO, FL – The Orlando firefighters’ union has sued the city for failing to turn over text messages from a deputy chief’s phone.
In a lawsuit filed in Orange Circuit Court on Wednesday, the union asks a judge to find the city in violation of Florida’s public records law.
Union leaders suspect Deputy Chief Chad Williamson was improperly texting with witnesses during an arbitration hearing in March.
Williamson has denied communicating with other witnesses.
Even so, the union requested copies of text messages from his department-issue phone.
Orlando officials said the city doesn’t have access to texts, and the union couldn’t inspect the phone because it had been lost.
The city did provide a list of phone numbers that had received or sent texts from Williamson’s phone, but it was heavily redacted; of 520 numbers, 411 were blacked out.
Phone numbers belonging to police and firefighters are exempt from the public records law, and city officials say that’s why they were redacted.
But union leaders aren’t buying it.
“I’m uneasy about the whole process,” union president Steve Clelland said Thursday. “Losing a phone in the middle of a public records request, I think is highly suspect.”
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 the law.
City officials declined comment, saying they had not reviewed the lawsuit.
From The Orlando Sentinel