Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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

The NFBA grant called for leasing space on existing towers. Funding for new construction was not an eligible expense. NFBA's Pat O'Neal stands in front of a 52 Eighty newly built tower. The NFBA has recently removed photos of tower construction from its web site.

Lake City, FL – Why is the NFBA clique, its attorneys, the NFEDP, Jacobs Engineering, and the ex GSG employees having secret meetings with the Feds under the cover of darkness?

The saga of the North Florida Broadband Authority continued last Thursday and Friday, January 5th and 6th. This time the NITA's Chris Holt and his boss, Doug Kinkoph, were scheduled to appear by teleconference from Washington.

The NFBA continued to be shameless in its flaunting of Florida's Sunshine Laws, which are commonly known as open meeting laws. Buoyed by the NFBA's newly hired guns from two law firms (Lewis, Longman & Walker, P.A.; and Grossman, Furlow & Bayo) and by the top brass of the NFBA, Chairman Tommy Langford, Vice Chair Pat O'Neal and Interim General Manager Richelle Sucara, this click continues to filter and misrepresent information to the rest of the 15 county/8 city NFBA Board.

Divide and Conquer

On January 4th Gilchrist County's Tommy Langford announced that he would be attending the January 5th NFBA meeting and the Vice Chairman, Pat O'Neal, would be attending the January 6th meeting. This was an obvious attempt to make an end run around Florida's Sunshine Laws, which require meetings of governmental bodies like the NFBA to be noticed and open to the public when two or more members are present.

After the January 5th meeting, your reporter asked the always congenial Chairman Langford if the meeting with the NTIA was going to be open to the public. Chairman Langford reiterated that it was not and again mentioned that he was going to be there "tomorrow and Pat [O'Neal] would be there on Friday, so no two Board members will be there."

Florida attorney Alan Watts called this "playing post office."

Whatever it is called, it is clearly a way for public bodies and unscrupulous public officials to keep the public and other board members alike from attending what are rightfully determined by the statues and the courts to be public meetings.

Then Chairman Langford mentioned that they wouldn't be deciding anything, "But there may be some recommendations brought back to the Board."

When the Observer asked if this "wasn't just a way to keep the public out of a meeting," Chairman Langford responded, "I didn't say that."

NFBA Headquarters – January 5, 2012

At approximately 9am on January 5, the Observer received a call that Vice Chairman Pat O'Neal's bright yellow Mustang was in the NFBA parking lot, along with a bunch of other vehicles. At that time it was not clear if Chairman Langford was present. When the Observer's source went to check and see for himself, he reported that the building door was locked.

A county employee advised the Observer that this was not the first time that the building entrance to NFBA HDQ was locked.

At approximately 11:15am, another Observer source went to the NFBA Hdq in Lake City. It was reported that the NFBA parking lot was jam packed with cars and that there was a bright yellow Mustang in NFBA parking lot.

The Observer Made A Personal Appearance at NFBA Headquarters

At three 3:45pm that afternoon, your reporter paid a personal visit to NFBA Hdq to see for himself what was going on. The parking lot was still jam packed and still, as earlier reported, prominent among the cars was NFBA Board member and Vice Chairman, Pat O'Neal's bright yellow Mustang.

The conference room was locked down, with the doors shut and the blinds drawn. Your reporter told the receptionist that he would like to speak to Tommy Langford. She looked over toward the conference room and said, "He's in there."

Your reporter then asked to speak with Pat O'Neal and was told he was in the meeting.

Your reporter then said to the receptionist, "Maybe Patrick Wiggins [one of the new NFBA attorneys] could come out for a moment."

Her reply: "They're all in there and I don't know when they are coming out."

As your reporter walked back down the hall, past the conference room, the whole group could clearly be heard discussing how they were going to tell the rest of the NFBA Board about some tower lease problems they had and the issues regarding the pay back of misused federal grant money.

Brenna Durdin, the NFBA attorney from Lewis, Longman & Walker, P.A, could clearly be heard inside the conference room. "Is the number one priority to get rid of those five [tower] leases?" she asked.

Interim General Manager Sucara replied, "I think we're going to go in that area anyway?"

Attorney Durden: "So we don't have to get out of it?"

There was a conversation, which was joined by the crew from Jacobs Engineering, Tommy Langford and apparently one of the new accountants, who went over different financial payback scenarios. Jeff Purdy of Jacobs talked about "stranded costs" and someone talked about what the NTIA knew and didn't know about some of the tower sites. There was talk about tower companies 5280 and American Tower.

It was abundantly clear that Chairman Langford, Vice Chair O'Neal, the accountants and the engineers, indeed the whole group, were doing a lot more that mere fact finding.


Whose money is it anyway?

Approved for $30,000,000 of Federal Stimulus Broadband Dollars, the North Florida Broadband Authority, with the help of the NTIA, is becoming the poster child for the malaise of waste, abuse (probable) fraud and distrust that permeates all levels of American government today.

Some of the companies that have tried to do the right thing for the NFBA and the American People have been nailed to the cross, had their credit ruined and their reputations sullied.

Bradford County's Representative, who was accused of committing the crime of not being a team player, was illegally excommunicated from the Authority as the NFBA's new hired legal guns watched. They still haven't said a word.

When it was pointed out at a recent NFBA Board meeting by Jacobs Engineering that folks were leery about doing business with the NFBA, no one seemed surprised.

On November 14, 2011, NFBA Board member Wendell Johnson of Lake City asked for the earliest time frame when the NFBA could realistically expect to make money.

Jacobs Engineering, who has commandeered millions of dollars in contracts from the NFBA, didn't miss a beat when Jeff Purdy, Jacobs's main man on the project answered, "February."

February is just around the corner and it will be interesting to watch for the cash flowing in, as the NFBA, a technology internet driven public body has been incapable for almost a year of getting its web site up to date and information to its Board members with enough time to read it. They also haven't been very good at paying their vendors.

Why is the NFBA clique, its attorneys, the NFEDP, Jacobs, the new accountants and the ex GSG employees having secret meetings with the Feds under the cover of darkness?

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandies said it best when he said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

Updated Jan 16, 2012 at 01:34 pm:  description of new tower to read "52 Eighty"

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

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Time and time again, the courts of Florida have enumerated the intent of the Sunshine laws of Florida. It is rogue authorities and rogue officials that flaunt the common knowledge that follows (Citations omitted):

"One purpose of the government in the sunshine law was to prevent at nonpublic meetings the crystallization of secret decisions to a point just short of ceremonial acceptance. Rarely could there be any purpose to a nonpublic pre-meeting conference except to conduct some part of the decisional process behind closed door. The statute should be construed so as to frustrate all evasive devices."


The Florida Supreme Court announced in Board of Public Instruction v. Doran, 224 So.2d 693, 699 (Fla. 1969), the principle that "[s]tatutes enacted for the public benefit should be interpreted most favorably to the public."


After 36 years, the quintessential words of Chief Justice Adkins of the Florida Supreme Ct. still ring true:

     "Every meeting of any board, commission, agency or authority of a municipality should be a marketplace of ideas, so that the governmental agency may have sufficient input from the citizens who are going to be affected by the subsequent action of the municipality. The ordinary taxpayer can no longer be led blindly down the path of government, for the news media, by constantly reporting community affairs, has made the taxpayer aware of government problems... such open meetings instill confidence in government.
     The taxpayer deserves an opportunity to express his views and have them considered in the decision-making process... No governmental board is infallible and it is foolish to assume that those who are elected or appointed to office have any superior knowledge concerning any government problem.
     Every person charged with the administration of any governmental activity must rely upon suggestions and ideas advanced by other knowledgeable and interested persons.
     As more people participate in governmental activities, the decision-making process will be improved...
     The statute should be construed so as to frustrate all evasive devices. This can be accomplished only by embracing the collective inquiry and discussion stages within the terms of the statute, as long as such inquiry and discussion is conducted by any committee or other authority appointed and established by a governmental agency and relates to any matter on which foreseeable action will be taken." (emphasis added)