Gov. DeSantis dismisses former DOH worker's claim she was fired over COVID-19 transparency issues

State officials are demanding an investigation into the Florida Department of Health following reports an employee was allegedly improperly removed from her position managing the state's COVID-19 Dashboard.

Among those calling for an investigation are Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, and State Representative Anna Eskamani.

"Whether the employees’ allegations are true or not, the public deserves to know," Rep. Eskamani said. "Florida has been one of the more aggressive states to reopen. The governor keeps saying he’s making these decisions based on evidence-based, and on the facts, so when you hear there could be a misinterpretation of facts, it’s incredibly concerning."

In the email sent to her collogues, Rebekkah Jones claimed she was involuntarily removed from her role of managing the health department's COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard is a public website to monitor and track the coronavirus in Florida.

In the email obtained by the Miami Herald she writes, “I have no knowledge about their plans, what data they are now restricting, what data will be added and when, or any of that."

She then leveled strong suspicion about the reporting process moving forward, saying, "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 commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it," Jones wrote.

During a news briefing, Gov. Ron DeSantis dismissed the claims there was an issue regarding transparency. He called the reports a "non-issue" and read out loud a follow-up email Jones wrote to her supervisor after her memo went public.

She wrote in part, "What I meant when I said 'don't expect the same level of accessibility' is that they are busy and can't answer every single email they get right away," she said. "I can't answer their questions, AKA, stop emailing me 24/7."

DeSantis' office issued the following statement about Jones:

"Rebekah Jones’ duties were to display data obtained by the Department’s epidemiological staff. The team that created the graphics on the dashboard, which was made up by multiple people, received data that was provided by subject matter experts, including Senior Epidemiologists, Surveillance Epidemiologists, and a Senior Database Analyst.

"Rebekah Jones exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the Department, including her 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. 

"Accuracy and transparency are always indispensable, especially during an unprecedented public health emergency such as COVID-19.  Having someone disruptive cannot be tolerated during this public pandemic, which led the Department to determine that it was best to terminate her employment."

The Florida Department of Health has not made any comments regarding transparency issues, and whether or not there would be an issue with transparency after Jone's removal. They did, however, forward the Governor's Office statement above and added the following line:

"She is given an opportunity to resign. If she does not, she will be terminated. She has until Thursday at 5 p.m. to resign."

FOX 35 News has made multiple attempts to reach Jones and have not heard back.