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Florida Democratic congressional candidate Rebekah Jones recently shared — and has since removed — a post misrepresenting the findings of a state investigation into a whistleblower complaint she filed in 2020.
The Commission on Human Relations’ investigation found Jones disclosed a violation that qualified her for whistleblower protections, but it did not state that she “demonstrated” a violation of the law.
Democratic congressional candidate Rebekah Jones recently shared a document on Instagram misrepresenting the findings of an investigation into a whistleblower complaint she filed in 2020 over COVID-19 data.
Jones, who is challenging Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz for Florida’s 1st Congressional District, came to national prominence in 2020. She alleged she was fired from her role as a data scientist for the Florida Department of Health after refusing to manipulate COVID-19 data.
A couple of months after her employment ended, Jones filed a complaint with the state’s Commission on Human Relations, and was later granted whistleblower status under state law.
In September, the commission concluded its investigation into the matter, saying it did not find "reasonable cause" that the health department subjected Jones to unlawful whistleblower retaliation.
On Oct. 26, Jones shared a photo of the commission’s report on her Instagram account that told a different story. In her version, the commission said she "demonstrated" a violation of Florida’s whistleblower law; but the state commission didn’t go that far. By Oct. 28, Jones had archived the post, which removed it from her public Instagram grid.
PolitiFact compared a screenshot of Jones’ Instagram post with a report the commission provided. Jones maintains that the version of the report shared on her campaign’s Instagram account is the "original, certified copy" mailed to her by the commission in September. But it contains differences from the official version commission spokesperson Frank Penela provided to PolitiFact.
The main difference between Jones’ version of the document and what the commission says is the "official" document is the word "demonstrated."
In the version shared by Jones, the document states that she did disclose "and demonstrated" a violation of Florida’s Whistleblower Act. (We added the bold emphasis below.)
Complainant did disclose and demonstrated a) a violation of law "which creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare;" or b) actual or suspected "gross mismanagement" as defined by the Act or "malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, suspected or actual Medicaid fraud or abuse, or gross neglect of duty committed by an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor."
"This investigation looked at two points: the legitimacy of my complaint itself and whether or not I was retaliated against for filing it," Jones said in the video. "In the first, I did demonstrate that the state was putting people in danger. However, I did not incur adverse action as defined by the (Whistleblower) Act after filing the complaint with the commission."
However, the word "demonstrated" does not appear in the state’s version of the document. It says (emphasis added): "Complainant did disclose either: a) a violation of law …" and continues to describe the violations defined by state law.
The commission’s investigation found that Jones disclosed a violation that qualified her for whistleblower protection, not that she demonstrated a violation of the state’s whistleblower law.
Additionally, in Jones’ version of the report, the second page lists a specific Florida statute about the suspension of state employees; the state’s version does not include this.
There are also minor formatting differences between the documents. In the state’s version, the phrase "Florida Statutes" is italicized every time. But in three instances, in Jones’ version of the report, "Florida Statutes" is not italicized.
Jones’ version also shows opening quotation marks in two instances where closing quotation marks are used in the state’s version.
When asked for comment on the discrepancies between the two versions, Jones said the state has made false claims against her in the past, so "we’re not surprised the state would lie again."
Metadata for the state’s version of the document shows the report was created at 11:03 a.m. on Sept. 12, the same day the report was released and mailed to Jones.
Jones shared a photo of the report the Commission on Human Relations released about Jones’ whistleblower complaint. The version of the report in the photo included multiple discrepancies from the official version released by the commission.
Jones’ version claims the commission found she had "demonstrated" a violation of Florida’s Whistleblower Act.
The word "demonstrated" does not appear in the official version of the report. It states Jones disclosed a violation of the state law that qualified her for whistleblower protections.
We rate this claim False.
Rebekah Jones’ congressional campaign Instagram account, accessed Oct. 27, 2022
Email exchange with Rebekah Jones’ congressional campaign, Oct. 31, 2022
Email exchange with Frank Penela, spokesperson for the Florida Commission on Human Relations, Oct. 27, 2022
Commission on Human Relations, Notice of Termination of Investigation, sent by Frank Penela on Oct. 27, 2022
Rebekah Jones for Congress, "Florida: Whistleblower complaint demonstrated ‘a violation of law endangering public health.’," Sept. 19, 2022
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