FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A week after Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills was reprimanded by the county ethics panel, county leaders are looking to create a policy regarding the storage of text messages.
Forsyth County Chief Information Officer Brandon Kenney has been tasked to look into the costs of various technologies that can store the messages.
On July 6, Mills was given a written reprimand after a complaint filed in March charged that she improperly deleted text messages from her personal phone contrary to county policy.
Forsyth County resident Rene Guidry filed the complaint claiming the commissioner “violated the Georgia [Open] Records Act on multiple occasions by deleting text messages between her, developers with pending zoning issues, other county commissioners and zoning attorneys.”
Mills spoke as a witness June 21 at the evidentiary hearing and said while she deleted every text message prior to the initial complaint filed in March, it was due to a limited amount of storage on her cell phone.
She went on to say due to issues with her county-issued cellphone including spotty service, and it was easier for her to give out her personal number to communicate with constituents.
After receiving her warning, Mills said she hopes to halt possible problems in the future for others by addressing the “lack of a formal text-specific policy” for elected officials.
Kenney said text messaging is different than emails because the county must work with cell carriers in order to archive and store the messages.
“The good news is there is technology out there that will allow us to do this,” Kenney said. “We can work with the carriers themselves that would allow us to subscribe to a service from them that would archive those text messages for a certain period of time.”
Kenney said he couldn’t discuss the various types of technology, but he would report later with more information.
He said this would be a good opportunity to look at the county’s overall cell phone policy.
Commissioner Laura Semanson said the county has done a good job with technology and has never experienced a problem with storage of messages or reception.
Kenney said a standard county provided phone has about 16 gigabytes.
Mills said the topic was brought up years ago with a former board, but technology hadn’t caught up to where it is now, including texting.
“We are to a point that we have to do it,” Mills said.