A Florida Republican attorney has resigned from a state commission in protest after a law enforcement raid on the home of a former Department of Health employee who said she was fired after refusing to manipulate coronavirus data.
A longtime member of the 12th Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission, which nominates judges to fill vacancies on the bench in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties, Ron Filipkowski is a registered Republican who was reappointed last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But, in his resignation letter, Filipkowski wrote, “I have been increasingly alarmed by the Governor’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“I believe the policy of this state towards covid is reckless and irresponsible,” he added.
Despite his concerns, Filipkowski said he stayed on the commission because “health policy was unrelated to my job.”
But after state law enforcement officers raided the home of former Department of Health employee Rebekah Jones, Filipkowski said the issue is “now a legal one rather than just medical,” and he decided that “I no longer wish to serve the current government of Florida in any capacity.”
Jones is a former Department of Health data scientist who built the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, which provides regular updates to the public on coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, deaths and other vital statistics related to the pandemic. She said she was fired after refusing to “manipulate data.”
State officials said Jones was fired for insubordination after multiple reprimands.
Who is Rebekah Jones? Former Florida COVID-19 data scientist had home raided by authorities
State officials are investigating a complaint by the Department of Health that somebody hacked into the agency’s emergency communications channel and sent a text message to 1,750 employees with the DOH and other agencies stating: “It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be a part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”
Agents seized Jones’ computer equipment. She has denied hacking into the emergency communications system. An affidavit filed by a state investigator said the text message came from an Internet Protocol (IP) address linked to Jones’ Comcast account.
Even if Jones did send the message, Filipkowski questioned whether it was a crime.
“What’s the crime here?” he asked. “The crime is her sending an email telling people to tell the truth?”
He also deemed the raid as inappropriate.
“You don’t send 12 armed officers to raid her computer for doing that,” he said. “That’s Gestapo. That’s authoritarian dictator tactics. That’s not America. It really viscerally bothered me.”
Filipkowsi, 52, said he is a lifelong Republican who served as the president of the South Sarasota County Republican Club and was active in the Sarasota GOP, serving as the party’s general counsel. A former state and federal prosecutor, Filipkowski is now a defense attorney, and in 2008 he ran for public defender in the 12th Judicial Circuit as a Republican, losing in the primary to Larry Eger. His son is named Ronald Reagan Filipkowski.
But Filipkowski opposed President Donald Trump and voted for Democrat Joe Biden, although he voted for all Republicans in down-ballot races. He said the GOP under Trump “is more of a personality cult that worships a supreme leader.” He worked with the Lincoln Project, a group of former Republicans opposed to Trump, and was featured on three billboards around Florida criticizing the president.
Yet while he opposed Trump, Filipkowski said “I was fine with DeSantis until COVID; I just think he’s totally sold us out.”
A DeSantis spokesman did not respond to a message seeking the governor’s reaction to Filipkowski’s resignation.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Rebekah Jones raid: Florida GOP attorney resigns in protest