Forsyth commissioners exploring new text storage policy
Birthed from ethics violation over deleted messages

Less than a week after an ethics panel recommended a written reprimand for Forsyth County District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills over deleted text messages, she is now seeking a county policy to address the issue.

On Tuesday, commissioners voted unanimously to have Brandon Kenney, the county’s chief information officer, bring them information on how to store text messages at a future meeting.

“We have been looking at various solutions in order to archive text messaging,” Kenney said. “Text messaging is a little bit different than your standard email, where we have to work with the carriers that you all are using in order to be able to archive and store these messages. The good news is there is technology out there that will allow us to do this.”

Kenney said services are available through phone carriers and that it may also be a good time to look at the county’s overall phone policy.

“I would also submit to you all that it would be a good opportunity as well to look at the overall policy related to cell phones and county-provided cell phones. As we begin to look at these different solutions, it’s going to be, I think, a decision point that will come before you with regards to the costs associated with these different services and trying to maintain that uniformity across all the different carriers,” he said.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the county will likely look at a service that would immediately archive text messages to a cloud-based service.

No timetable for a new policy was given at the meeting.

The discussion came less than a week after District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills was found to have violated the Georgia Records Act by an ethics panel made up of three out-of-county attorneys who recommended a written reprimand for Mills. 

Mills had admitted to deleting texts to free up space on her personal device, which she said she used due to issues with a county-provided phone, but said she did not delete anything substantive and said county business, such as zonings, was too complex to be done through that medium.

The hearing followed an ethics complaint against Mills by county resident Jay Guidry. Previously, Guidry open records request submitted by Guidry to see previous texts by Mills to Chairman Todd Levent, five zoning attorneys and a land developer. The office of County Attorney Ken Jarrard responded saying no such messages exist.

Mills said in a release following the hearing she would seek new rules for data retention and text messages.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Mills said she has not responded to text messages from constituents since the decision.