The woman who designed Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard and was later fired is also facing an open criminal investigation for sexual cyber harassment and cyber stalking, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Wednesday.
Rebekah Jones told West Palm Beach television station WPEC this week that her termination was “not voluntary,” adding that she was taken out of the job for refusing to censor data on the online dashboard.
She claims that officials directed her to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”
However, the governor says that Jones was actually released for insubordination, and repeated that during a visit in Orlando with Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday.
“She didn’t listen to people who are her superiors,” explains DeSantis. “Come to find out she’s also under active criminal charges in the state of Florida. She’s being charged with cyber stalking and cyber sexual harassment.”
A Tallahassee police report states that a man claimed to be a victim of revenge porn by Jones last summer. He told police that he had an injunction against Jones for a year. It expired recently. Additionally, the man alleged that Jones posted naked pictures of him online, and that she shared the content with his employer and family.
Yesterday, Florida received a big dump of test results, which yielded about 500 new cases out of more than 75,000 results for a statewide positivity rate of 0.64%. pic.twitter.com/K2DHg0jewq
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) May 20, 2020
Jones pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor stalking charges. She listed the Florida Department of Health (DOH) as her employer upon her arrest.
DeSantis says Jones is not a scientist nor the chief architect of the online dashboard. He adds that she holds degrees in journalism, communications, and geography.
“She was putting data on the portal which the scientists believed didn’t believe was valid data,” DeSantis explains. “So she didn’t listen to the people who were her superiors.”
Jones has a Ph.D. in Geography from Florida State University, a Master’s degree in Geography and Mass Communication from Louisiana State University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Syracuse in Geography and Journalism, according to a resume posted on FSU’s website.
Florida’s COVID-19 portal is designed and operated through a data mapping software from a company called ESRI. An April 2020 article on their website says Jones led the creation of the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.
“She put [her] work on hold and quickly created a COVID-19 dashboard,” the company’s article says. “She spent the weekend compiling cases data and configuring the dashboard.”
Gov. DeSantis says the data on the dashboard is transparent, and, “Any insinuation otherwise is just typical partisan narrative trying to be spun.”