Investigates

INVESTIGATES: Local mayor running for state legislature caught sexting coworker

WELAKA, Fla. — Action News Jax has learned a local mayor running for higher office put his town in a legally compromising position. It’s because of an inappropriate relationship he had with a deputy town clerk and the sexual text messages, or sexting, that document it.

Jamie Watts is the Mayor of Welaka in Putnam County and is now running for the state legislature. Action News Jax Investigates found internal emails where the town’s own attorney wrote Mayor Watts’ behavior legally put Welaka at risk.

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The town was almost sued for sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and retaliation based on sex. It only avoided it because of a legal technicality. Action News obtained the text messages at the center of the scandal and they describe a clear picture of a very complicated situation.

Mayor Watts talks a lot about faith and family values in his public campaign announcement, but in private, his text messages paint a different picture. He sent text messages like, “stop giving me dirty thoughts,” “why do I keep wanting to kiss you?” and some too salacious to broadcast on our newscast.

Mayor Watts sent them to the town deputy clerk. Their relationship went beyond business, cataloged by their text conversations. In them, Watts sent her photos from the bathtub after a Valentine’s Day bottle of Pinot Noir and texted, “you are already in deep. So am I,” and “it’s hard to leave you alone.” The messages insinuate he wasn’t single at the time.

INVESTIGATES: Troubling accusations against mayor of Welaka

The boundaries between the two are blurry, but in them, Watts texted, “sorry, I need to stop// I’m breaking our rules.” That’s a point that becomes particularly important when she gets fired. Action News Jax Investigates obtained the 65 pages of text messages that became the centerpiece of her legal demand letter threatening to sue the Town of Welaka after her termination in February 2022.

Action News Jax obtained a memo from the Welaka Town Attorney stating she was fired for “missing work” and “poor performance.” But because of their extracurricular relationship, “Mayor Watts put himself in a position where he had to essentially recuse himself from involvement in (name deleted) termination,” something that “…could have compromised his ability to effectively manage the town’s administrative functions -- leading to other legal ramifications.”

The drama of this process played out in the texts following her termination. Mayor Watts texted, “this whole thing is a mess I wish I wasn’t even the mayor right now and I added to it with my stupidity.” To that she replied, “the whole reason this happened has to do with you.” “this was my career you messed with” and “my head and my heart, for no reason.” The only reason her civil rights lawsuit did not move forward, the attorney wrote, was a technicality of the law. Welaka is too small an employer to fall under the State or Federal Civil Rights Act. He wrote, “The law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.”

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Less than a year after sending texts like, “I’m not a playboy. I’m a mayor who is under a damn microscope,” he added his name to the November 2024 ballot announcing his run for Florida Representative claiming, “I’ve had the privilege of working on the local level to keep government responsible to the citizens it serves.”

But the opinion of Welaka’s attorney begs to differ. He wrote, “The mayor’s conduct was extremely unprofessional and inappropriate, and in my legal opinion, exposed the town to potential liability that we appear to have avoided.” In fact, Action News Jax found Watts has a very different track record than the one he touts on the campaign trail. In October, Action News Jax first told you about how Watts has a past littered with accusations of harassment and stalking.

Action News Jax Investigator Emily Turner tried to speak with Watts. “We want to talk to you about a concerning pattern of behavior in your past. When it comes to women, no fewer than three individual women have accused you of stalking or harassment,” she said.

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The accusations include harassment, even threats of revenge porn. The three women, all his exes, went to law enforcement about safety concerns after the breakup.

Mayor Watts initially agreed to an interview at a later date, but then never returned Action News Jax’s requests for an interview.

We asked for an interview a second time regarding the text messages and liability concerns. A public relations person emailed us the following statement:

“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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