iPhone video backs up councilwoman's story

February 9, 2011 4:40:46 PM PST
Some cell phone video is shining new light on some harsh allegations against a Houston city councilwoman. Jolanda Jones was accused of making inappropriate comments to members of the Houston Fire Department during a surprise visit last month. But newly released video of what happened is telling a much different story.

Those fiery accusations led to an OIG investigation. Even though the OIG investigation cleared Jolanda Jones, it's her staffer's iPhone video, although shaky, that truly tells what happened.

Jack Valinski had just gotten his iPhone 4 when he joined the rest of council member Jolanda Jones' staff on a team building scavenger hunt last month. When he thought he was taking still photos at Fire Station 8, he actually recorded video.

Jones said, "So I am just thankful -- we call it the blessed mistake, because the team building exercise required a photo and instead we got video."

Back on January 15, rumors began flying that Jones used profanities during the team building visit to Fire Station 8. The president of the firefighters' union even complained to Eyewitness News over the phone.

Jeff Caynon, President of the Houston Profesional Firefighters Association said, "'You guys don't work. You come here and you sit around, you know, sit down in your recliners and watch TV.' The problem is that it's once again, it's just another in a pattern of erratic behavior."

But Valinski's iPhone video reveals otherwise. On it, you can clearly hear the council member joking.

Jones said on the video, "So you guys all have all the muscles in HFD. Let's take pictures."

Although the video quality is poor, it's obvious firefighters at Station 8 were in a pleasant mood.

Video captured an exchange between Jones and firefighters: "Wait -- you all each have your own stove? Ha-ha? Are you kidding me? We use two or three at a time."

Jones only brought the video to light after an internal OIG investigation cleared her name, she says because the firefighters who were there told the truth.

Jones said, "This whole fiasco, because that's what I believe it was, shows that people can say anything about anybody."

As for Valinski, he's just glad that the videos, however shaky, proved a point.

"It's great that the video was there, but as the council member said, it seems like the firefighters that actually testified also said that nothing happened," Valinski said.

Eyewitness News reached out to Caynon. He is attending a class in Massachusetts and did not get back to us, though he did tell me that he did not see the video himself.