Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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North Florida Broadband Authority: Operating in the shadows with the help of the Feds, the NFBA saga continues

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The North Florida Broadband Authority saga continued in Lake City, Florida, yesterday morning with another secret meeting held by NFBA Board Chairman, Gilchrist County's Tommy Langford. The guests included NFBA Interim General Manager Richelle Sucara, FSU Institute of Government's, Jeff Hendry, various NFBA hired contractors and President Obama's representatives from the Dept. of the Commerce's NTIA, Doug Kinkoph and Chris Holt. The ultimate purpose of this secret and illegal meeting was to continue doling out $30,000,000 of Obama Stimulus money for the NFBA secretive and failing broadband project.

Under investigation for millions and millions of dollars of waste, fraud and abuse by the Federal Government, NFBA Chairman Langford continues to operate in the shadows with the NFBA's new ring leader, Interim General Manager, Richelle Sucara.

Almost one year behind schedule, in debt to TD Bank for $750,000 plus interest and counting, the NFBA, the consortium of 15 North Central Florida Counties and 8 Cities, has abrogated all its responsibilities to Chairman Langford and IGM Sucara, who have repeatedly violated the federal grant procurement policies and prudent business practices, as President Obama's contractors, Messer's Kinkoph and Holt look on and direct the show from Washington, except when they are in Lake City, as they were yesterday.

The Feds Demand For Secrecy Began Last Year

The demand for secrecy by the NTIA's Kinkoph and Holt began in the late summer of 2011, before the NFBA project was suspended. They were coming to town, Live Oak at that time, to ask some questions and wanted the meeting to be held behind closed doors. Some of the NFBA Board members protested and thought that the meetings should be open to the whole Board.

Pursuant to Florida law, if two board members had shown up it would have been a public meeting open to anyone who wanted to attend.

End Run Around the Sunshine Law

With the help of the then NFBA attorney, NGN, it was determined that if only the Chairman attended the meeting it could be closed. All NFBA Board members except the Chairman were then excluded. The Live Oak meeting was closed. The die was cast.

Time went on. The $30,000,000 stimulus grant was suspended; lawyers changed; engineers changed; the general manager changed; and procurement policies were violated.

Vendors that had done business with the NFBA were being forced into bankruptcy or near bankruptcy; and Bradford County's representative was voted off of the NFBA Board of Directors, in an illegal vote, for the crime of not being a team player.

The Federal Spigot opened up again and millions began flowing. Employees were intentionally hired by the NFBA Board without any kind of background or credit checks, all with the stamp of approval of the United States Federal Government's Kinkoph and Holt.

The NFBA Board of Directors, the representatives of the 15 Counties and 8 Cities of North Central Florida, had now become nothing more than a rubber stamp for Board Chairman Langford and IGM Sucara.

On February 27, 2012, after an NFBA workshop, in which no questions were allowed from the public or the press, NFBA Board Chairman Tommy Langford and the Observer had a conversation regarding the closed meetings with the NTIA's Kinkoph and Holt.

The Observer asked Chairman Langford if the Feds made recommendations during the meetings, which were then brought back to the board or could be brought back to the board. Chairman Langford said "they did" and was the purpose of the meetings with the NTIA.

The Law

The Florida Sunshine Laws are the bellwether by which all other open meeting laws are judged.

In 1974, the Florida Supreme Court, in a landmark opinion in the case of Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, spoke about the public interest being best served by public access to the entire decision making process. The Court said:

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 doors. 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)

Yesterday - Asked to leave

Yesterday, at approximately 10:00 am, your reporter walked into the meeting mentioned at the beginning of this article. The clerk, Faith Doyle, announced that the meeting was not open to the public as your reporter walked in.

IGM Sucara said the meeting was not open to the public as your reporter took his seat in the gallery in the back of the conference room. The NTIA's Kinkoph called a recess. Board Chairman Langford was silent.

The Lake City Police were called. At about 10:30 am the Lake City Police Chief arrived and your reporter left with the Chief. After a brief conversation discussing past meeting practices of the Board and the Feds and the post workshop conversation with Chairman Langford, the Chief went back to the meeting room to speak with Chairman Langford.

Upon Chief Gilmore's return, she told the Observer, "I spoke with Chairman Langford. He told me he doesn't want you in the meeting."


The Code of Omertá

Recently, the NFBA under the leadership of Chairman Tommy Langford and IGM Richelle Sucara, with the full support of the Obama Administration's Operatives, Messer's Kinkoph and Holt, operates more like a Mafia clan that has taken a blood oath of secrecy, than a municipal corporation representing 15 Counties and 8 Cities.

The Chairman and IGM Sucara have apparently conspired with others to have record requests ignored, material withheld from the Board, federal procurement guidelines trashed, legal counsel absent from meetings, a secret meeting with the City Manager of Lake City and other things.

It has gotten so bad that the Chairman and the IGM will not release the who and what are being paid with federal dollars to the NFBA Board or the public.

The last federal draw down of funds was held up three times. Despite repeated requests by the Observer, the Chairman and the IGM refused to release the information, information which could have easily been accomplished by emailing existing files.

Next up on the North Florida Broadband Authority's agenda: Stealing business from private enterprise with Federal Stimulus Dollars.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On March 30, 2012, John ..............., wrote,

          It never ends with these apparent criminals, the more they gorge themselves on stolen public funds, the more ravenous they become. And why not? It's appears no law enforcement authority at any level has any interest in slowing them down. Why do you suppose that is?

          Thanks for your tireless efforts at exposing these sociopaths.

John wrote two minutes later:

     On second thought, I must request that you not post my comment under my name. I work in areas that some of these people have influence upon, and since they operate entirely outside the law, I'd be subject to retaliation - possibly beyond the mere economic realm.


On March 29, 2012, James R wrote:

I have emailed the NFBA on numerous occasions asking when broadband might be available since this project has been ongoing for more than 2 years. I have yet to receive one response from any of those emails. The organization takes $40 million in taxpayer money and thinks it doesn’t have to answer to anyone? Really?  I want broadband service, but not at a cost to the taxpayers of this country if this is how reckless these people are going to be with the money. Does anybody know when we might get service?


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:
Baker County becomes the 7th north central Florida county to pull out of Obama stimulus funded NFBA

(Part XXXVII) (February 19, 2013)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Feds put failing stimulus funded NFBA on life support. 3yrs and $28+ mil later, 60 customers and no revenue model.
(Part XXXVI) (February 15, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Former Board Clerk sues NFBA for wrongful termination and violation of her constitutional rights
(Part XXXV) (January 30, 2013)

North Florida Broadband Authority: $30 mil later N. Central Florida Regional Planning Council - clueless
(Part XXXIV) (January 25, 2013)

North Florida Broadband Authority: After General Counsel's response, FL's Public Record Laws remain the latest casualty
(Part XXXIII (b)) (January 8, 2013)

• 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)