Riviera Beach says messages on councilman's phone professionally deleted, fell into ocean

'This is starting to sound ridiculous'

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. -
  • City admits Councilman Terence Davis's phone was professionally wiped
  • IT Manager suddenly resigns
  • After WPTV requested to examine the phone, the city said it 'fell into the ocean'

WPTV filed a lawsuit against the city of Riviera Beach over text messages on Councilman Terence Davis’s phone. The text messages, which are public records, were never handed over.

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The city now acknowledges they were professionally, and intentionally deleted. What the city can’t say at this point is who deleted them.

“Public records sometime tend to disappear, when the folks who have them on their phones or computers are afraid to turn them over because they know the content,” said first amendment lawyer, Martin Reeder.

WPTV’s attorney asked the city to hand over Davis’s phone to a forensic specialist to analyze the device.  After that request was made, the city said, Davis’s phone fell into the ocean.

“This is starting to sound ridiculous,” Reeder said. 

The city claims that was by accident, but Reeder is not sold. 

“Obviously cellphones or other mobile devices could fall into the ocean, but I suppose they could also be thrown into the ocean,” Reeder said. 

In the midst of the ongoing investigation, the city’s IT Manager, Elvis Mella, suddenly resigned.  In a sworn affidavit Mella said that on Jan. 16 he scanned Davis’s phone but the scan failed.

Then on Feb. 7, one day after WPTV had filed the lawsuit against the city, Mella tried to get the text messages off Davis’s phone again, but he said there was nothing on there. 

“There is a lot of suspicious circumstances here,” Reeder said. 

Reeder said in a similar case in Martin County, council members went to jail for a comparable offense. 

“The first rule when you find yourself in a hole: Stop digging,” Reeder said. 

The case goes before a judge again on March 28. 

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