Today’s paper carried an interesting story about the newest public-records hubbub from the county that brought you “Textgate.”
The story — “Judge: Orange County must hand over IP addresses in Dropbox case” — makes it clear that the county has already been hiding something it shouldn’t have.
What we learn next makes all the difference.
What we’re talking here about is a file-sharing device called Dropbox. I have Dropbox on my computer. It allows me to create a Word document I can access anywhere. Let’s say I write a column draft and store it on my work computer — but later, while shopping at Publix, think of a great point I want to add. I can use the Dropbox app on my smartphone to access the file and edit it.
Mayor Teresa Jacobs has one, too. The question is: Who has access to her files?
Local activists — the same ones who pushed for mandatory sick time — suggest that lobbyists and other outsiders probably do — and that Jacobs is hiding the identity of people who are trying to influence her.
The problem is: The activists have very little evidence to back up their suspicions. So they are on a fishing expedition. Jacobs is right when she says it looks like little more than another political attack.
But you know what? They are allowed to do exactly what they are doing. Any citizen is, regardless of motive. And frankly, Orange County hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to public records.
Jacobs has been adamant that no lobbyists or outsiders have access to her Dropbox files. She could not have been more clear when she told WESH-2’s Greg Fox: “There’s no truth to it. There’s no proof of it. There will not be any proof of it because it’s totally baseless.”
Jacobs’ assertions were so black-and-white, I’m prone to believe her. You’d have to be a fool to claim something so vehemently if you knew there was even the slightest chance that you could be proven a liar. And Jacobs has never struck me as a fool.
Still, the public deserves to see that information for itself — which is why the judge ordered the county to release the codes about which computers and networks had been accessing the county files.
If the only folks accessing and placing new information in the county files were county staffers, then Jacobs will be vindicated and the activists will have crow to eat.
But if the information shows outsiders swapping information with public employees — after Jacobs said they didn’t — the mayor will have a whole new world of deserved problems.
Regardless, the judge’s ruling — that citizens have a right to public information — is a win for citizens and the Sunshine Law. Public information is public information, period. And no technological advancement should change that.