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Columbia County Observer

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North Florida Broadband Authority: "The greatest threat to this project is the Government"

The North Florida Broadband Authority saga continued last Friday, October 28, 2011, when after two months of blaming the Federal Government, Bradford County and its NFBA representative, Chris Thurow, and unnamed whistle blowers for the magnifying glass under which the NFBA has found itself, Jefferson County's Stephen Fulford, Chairman of the NFBA, told the NFBA Board in another of its endless emergency meetings, "The greatest threat to this project right now is the government."

Chairman Fulford continued, "Whether it's the fact that we're local government and we can't talk to each other outside of this meeting – to actually deal with our business, or it's the amount of rules and regulations associated with the project that come down on top of us... and had it all dictated to us."

The federal government is financing this project

The NFBA project is being financed by federal stimulus dollars, money that will be paid back by your grandchildren.

NFBA Board Member, Lake City's City Manager Wendell Johnson spoke about the importance of working together with GSG (Government Services Group), the project management firm that was forced to resign from the project by the Feds.

CM Johnson said, "We cannot do this transition without Government Services Group and their two years of knowledge. We just can't."

Chairman Fulford told the Board, "GSG started out trying to lead us into this transition. Then it comes back that they're still pulling the strings. It's like -- but that's just what they do."

CM Johnson told the Board, "We're over the crisis era."

GSG's Robert Sheets weighed in from his new seat in the gallery. "The NTIA has given the NFBA an impossible task. You now have given that impossible task to Richelle (Sucara) to do something very difficult in 30 days."

Richelle Sucara, a retired Alachua County employee, was hired as the NFBA manager without a competitive process. Ms. Sucara has minimal experience in Broadband, telecommunications, and governmental utilities. She appeared at an NFBA meeting, as if by magic. The NFBA has no employees, although the NFBA Board has given her czar like powers to hire without review.

On October 26, 2011, Ms. Sucara acknowledged that she is contemplating hiring three present and former employees of GSG, without a competitive hiring process. One employee is being hired for "business development; public relations and communications; community outreach and communications." The NFBA is already paying the NFEDP and Jeff Hendry $10,000 a month for these services.

Ms. Sucara's temporary employment agreement, including her benefits, is estimated to be worth over $210,000 on an annualized basis. It has been claimed that her extensive relationship with GSG, its principals and NGN were strictly business.

Mr. Sheets continued, "We will not watch you go off the cliff... We've been doing this too long to let the lack of a memo have something crash... We are not going to watch something blow up."

Walter McKenzie of White Springs told Ms. Sucara that he had a hundred percent confidence that she could get the job done.

Epilogue

Time will tell if the Federal Government, the "greatest threat to this project," agrees with Mr. McKenzie and if they have the confidence that the American people's money and the project is in good hands in the hands of the NFBA, or if it is going to follow in the footsteps of rural Louisiana.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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Links to the NFBA series:

• North Florida Broadband Authority: FL's Public Record Laws the latest casualty
(Part XXXIII) (January 6, 2013)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Foot dragging, lack of info cause Suwannee Cnty to call "strike 3" on the NFBA – They're out
(Part XXXII) (January 3, 2013)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Suwannee County tells the NFBA – One more strike and you're out
(PartXXXI) (December 20, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Wracked by gross mismanagement from the feds on down, the NFBA has become the poster child for non disclosure
(Part XXX) (December 18, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: More bad news. Last Mile Wifi CEO, "I knew they were going to extort me."
(Part XXIX) December 10, 2012

North Florida Broadband Authority: NFBA failed to make the grade in Gilchrist County
(Part XXVIII) (November 29, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Columbia County Pulls Out of Obama Funded Stimulus Project
(Part XXVII) (November 2, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: The NFBA road show traveled to an unprepared Columbia County with misinformation, half truths, and just plain lies
(Part XXVI) (Posted October 9, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Woebegotten Stimulus funded authority gets another black eye. No one bids to service the $30 mil 14 county network.
(Part XXV) (Posted October 1, 2012)

• North Florida Broadband Auth: Another County pulls out. Dixie says throwing away money a major issue.
(Part XXIV) (Posted September 13, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: NFBA road shows moves to Lake City for a double dose of free money
(Part XXIII) (Posted September 5, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Secrecy and a lawyer's spread sheet. It's business as usual at the NFBA.
(Part XXII) (Posted August 22, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority:  Mainstreet Broadband, NFBA's touted business partner, goes bust
(Part XXI) (Posted August 2, 2012)

• North Florida Broadband Authority: Two cities say "no mas." Refuse free tower space to NFBA
(Part XX)  (Posted July 26, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Taylor County Says Goodbye, "I don't think our county should be involved."
(Part XIX) (Posted April 18, 2012)

• North Florida Broadband Authority: Perry Pulls Out, City Manager tells Council, "It's just out of whack"
(Part XVIII) (Posted April 11, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Bradford County Says "No Mas" – Pulls Out
(Part XVII) (Posted April 4, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Operating in the shadows with the help of the Feds, the NFBA saga continues
(Part XVI) (posted March 29, 2012)

Lake City, City Manager Wendell Johnson looks to make White Elephant deal with troubled North Florida Broadband Authority
(Part XV) (Posted Feb 28, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Propped up by the Feds, financed by the American People - Who can you trust?
(Part XIV) (Posted Feb 25, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority:
"Sunlight is the best disinfectant." Not for them

(Part XIII) (Posted Jan 13, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority:
A Lawyer's Dream. A Look At The Numbers
(Part XIIb) (Posted Dec 29, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority:
A Lawyer's Dream. Money Is No Object
(Part XIIa) (Posted Dec 28, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority:
Feds come to town – Working under the cover of darkness was their MO

(Part XI) (Posted November 23, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority:
Feds continue investigation - Interim GM rehires resigned firms employees

(part X) (Posted Nov 11, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority: "The greatest threat to this project is the Government"
(Part IX) (Posted November 2, 2011)

• Federal grant for broadband access in rural Louisiana rescinded: Could the North Florida Broadband Authority Be Far Behind?
(Posted October 28, 2011)

• North Florida Broadband Authority: Redefining "Good Business Sense?"
(Part VIII) (Posted October 25, 2011)

• North Florida Broadband Authority: Feds resume funding – Put small vendors first
(Part VII) (Posted October 20, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Small vendors in big trouble | NFEDP/FSU's Hendry may resign (Part VIb)  (Posted Oct 14, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Blood in the street (Part VIa)  (posted Oct 13, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority: "I don't want to die on principle and not have broadband." (Part V)  (posted Oct. 6, 2011)

NFBA future in limbo - Fed keeps funds locked down - Suspend project  (Part IV) (posted Sept 28, 2011)

The North Florida Broadband Authority. Its world was about to change (part III)  (posted Sept 16, 2011)

"I think we have a failure to communicate." The N Florida Rural Broadband saga continues (Part II)  (posted Sept 14, 2011)

Feds close spigot on $30 million broadband stimulus grant. 15 north central Florida counties waiting for money to flow again
(Part I)  (posted Sept 12, 2011)