INVESTIGATES: Town of Welaka addresses sexting mayor accusations, Action News Jax coverage

WELAKA, Fla. — The mayor of Welaka publicly addressed Action News Jax’s investigation into sexual text messages he sent that almost got the town sued.


More than 2 weeks after Action News Jax Investigator Emily Turner reported on Welaka mayor and state legislative candidate Jamie Watts, the mayor’s behavior and Turner’s coverage of it were topic one at the Welaka Town Council meeting.

In February, Action News Jax showed text messages from Mayor Watts to the town’s former deputy clerk. These messages included phrases like, “You are already in deep … so am I” and “It’s hard to leave you alone...”

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The deputy clerk was fired in February 2022 and threatened to sue the town for discrimination and sexual harassment.

Those facts didn’t become public until Turner’s report, and that was a concern for many citizens and town council members who spoke at the meeting Tuesday night.

“I don’t like the light this puts our town in. I think we’re better than all this,” said Town Council President Jessica Finch.

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Council members stressed that their town attorney and outside counsel advised against making the legal threat public.

Watts’ significant other, Courtney Desouza, who was there in October when Watts dodged Action News Jax’s interview request, and the mayor both blamed the behavior on others.

“The media, Emily Turner, still says she’s not heard from us. That’s a lie,” said Desouza.

“It’s always tough when a political opponent decides to drag you through the mud,” said Watts. “I will admit that [I had] some romantic and semi-romantic friendships and relationships that I wish I had never had, but don’t we all?”

Read: Investigates: Troubling accusations against mayor of Welaka

The town council doesn’t have the power to remove or discipline the mayor. Council members reiterated their commitment to annual sexual harassment training for all town employees.

Before her last stories aired, Turner went through her email, spam and junk folders as she did before her February report. She found nothing from the mayor, his campaign or his significant other.

A spokesperson only sent a statement after our story aired blaming Watts’ opponent for “embarrassing him and his family.”

Read: INVESTIGATES: Local mayor running for state legislature caught sexting coworker

Read the full statement below:

“First, we encourage Jamie Watts’ opponent to run a clean campaign. Using opposition researchers and private investigators to plow through Jamie Watts’ personal life is reprehensible. This particular instance is another opportunity for them to take things out of context and try to embarrass him and his family. You have the full range of text messages that are a part of the record, and the memo from the attorney for the town of Welaka. I refer you to the paragraph on the Mayor’s conduct, which states that the complainant’s ‘own text messages, per Ms. Erdelyi, demonstrate that she was a willing and reciprocating participant in the communications.’ Furthermore, the report indicates that Jamie did not use his position to intervene or do any favors for the complainant but recused himself from any decisions about her as a member of the town’s staff as he should have.”

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