TALLAHASSEE — In light of an investigation into the Florida Public Transportation Commission, seven cellphones have been confiscated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement because of missing text messages.
According to a report on NewsChief.com, the messages in question are said to be part of public records that could determine if the PTC colluded with local taxi and limousine services in an ongoing battle against transportation-network companies such as Lyft and Uber.
Sarasota attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen filed a public records lawsuit against the PTC alleging that vital correspondence between PTC members, including former Executive Director Kyle Cockream, and the owner of a local cab company were purposely deleted from record.
The investigation has confirmed that there were, in fact, text messages sent between the PTC and cab companies in September 2016 as evidenced by an in-depth cellphone bill. A forensic look into the seven cellphones in question revealed that all of the phones were wiped and underwent a reset in October 2016.
The FDLE was able to extract a few of the missing text messages via a standard backup. The messages between Cockream and former PTC chief inspector Brett Saunders involve profanity and jokes about sticking a former colleague on a bonfire. Cockream stepped down from his position after turning in his cellphone and the texts were revealed.
Cockream appeared for a deposition Feb. 13 to answer questions surrounding the text messages, though according to a report by the Tampa Bay Times, he failed to answer the majority of questions posed.
Other issues between local politics and ride-sharing companies happened recently in Austin, Texas, nearly a year ago when City Councilwoman Ann Kitchens accepted funds from the city’s cab companies while pushing to have strict regulations that allegedly would hinder Lyft's and Uber’s business practices. The ballot measure to overturn the regulations was defeated by voters in May 2016, and the ride-sharing giants suspended operations in the city. Kitchen has said that political contributions are “not about favors, at all,” and that the council is attempting to treat vehicles for hire in equal measure.