What happened to the text messages and public records that were on the City-issued phone for Sebastian City Councilman Damien Gilliams?
According to sources familiar with the situation, Gilliams may be in violation of policies in place to protect government data, public records and ensure compliance with the law.
About two weeks ago, Gilliams made a factory reset on his City-issued phone. By resetting the phone, he deleted all the information that was on it.
Gilliams says he did reset his phone because he believed it was hacked.
“It looked like it was hacked. Could not open it,” Gilliams told Sebastian Daily.
Another source said that Gilliams was having trouble with his phone prior to the hard reset. What he should have done was turn the phone over to the City of Sebastian’s MIS department and let them fix it to save the text messages and data.
“He is not allowed to destroy any public record,” the source told Sebastian Daily.
Making a hard reset on the phone is a multi-step process. The person is warned that all data will be erased during the factory reset.
While Gilliams did reset his phone, causing the loss of public records, it still does not mean he intentionally wanted to delete text messages.
We made a public records request to receive the text messages from Gilliams’ phone with the City of Sebastian. We only received blank text messages from the specific dates.
We then contacted the City Clerk and asked them to recover the lost texts that were on the phone after Gilliams made the factory reset.
“The City’s MIS Department attempted to recover the unavailable texts, but they were not successful,” Jeanette Williams told Sebastian Daily.
Most carriers do not keep text messages because of the liability. So, they make it the user’s and the company’s responsibility. Local government, especially city phones belonging to elected officials, should have Mobile Device Management (MDM) software installed to capture all data. If the data is not retrievable, it could mean that MDM software was never installed.
The Sunshine Law requires government boards or commissions to keep all public records, including written correspondence, emails, text messages, and other electronic communications.
The Department of State and the Attorney General’s Office says that all text messages should be available and provided at the public’s request.