Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard designer accused of posting revenge porn

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WJXT) -- The woman who helped design the dashboard that tracks cases of COVID-19 in Florida is accused of posting revenge porn and facing a charge of stalking, according to documents obtained Wednesday by News4Jax.

On Monday, Rebekah Jones, an information systems manager with the Florida Department of Health, was fired after what she characterized as a dispute about what information should be made public regarding coronavirus in the state.

News4Jax obtained Jones’ arrest affidavit, which shows that in June 2019, a victim submitted an online report in reference to “revenge porn." The victim advised he had an injunction against Jones for the past year, which had expired.

The probable cause affidavit alleges that Jones put up a website with naked pictures of him and sent it to his place of employment. Jones was arrested a month later, and as of Wednesday, the case was still in pretrial status. Records show she was formally charged with stalking.

During a luncheon Wednesday that included DeSantis, Vice President Mike Pence was asked about the fired database worker, which led to a response from DeSantis.

“One she’s a data scientist, she’s somebody that’s got a degree in journalism, communication and geography. She is not involved in collating any data, she does not have the expertise to do that. She is not an epidemiologist, she is not the chief architect of our web portal, that is another false statement, and what she was doing was she was putting data on the portal, which the scientists didn’t believe was valid data,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said Jones didn’t listen to her superiors, saying that is what led to her dismissal.

“Come to find out she’s also under active criminal charges in the state of Florida.” DeSantis said. “I’ve asked the Department of Health to explain to me how someone would be allowed to be charged with that, and continue on because this was many months ago, I have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment, so her supervisor dismissed her because of a lot of those reasons, and it was a totally valid way, but she should have been dismissed, long before that."

In an email sent to researchers Friday, Jones announced that she was was reassigned from her duties overseeing the dashboard that provides daily snapshots of Florida’s COVID-19 infections, testing and deaths.

“As a word of caution, I would not expect the new team to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency that I made central to the process during the first two months,” Jones wrote, according to Florida Today.

The Florida Department of Health said Tuesday that Jones had "exhibited a repeated course of insubordination" during her tenure there, making "unilateral decisions to modify the Department's COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors.

"The blatant disrespect for the professionals who were working around the clock to provide the important information for the COVID-19 website was harmful to the team."

Jones has been asked to resign, the department said, and if she doesn’t do so by 5 p.m. Thursday, she will be “terminated.”