Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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North Florida Broadband Authority: Former Board Clerk sues NFBA for wrongful termination and violation of her constitutional rights

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The Obama stimulus funded North Florida Broadband Authority received another black eye on Friday, January 25th, when former Board Clerk and Executive Assistant Faith Doyle sued the NFBA for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act; violating her constitutional right to due process; and a breach of her employment agreement.

General Manager Sucara: " Ms. Doyle was indispensible to the success of the project."

In January of 2012 the NFBA project, under the direct leadership of the now $15k a month General Manager, Richelle Sucara, was falling further and further behind. In January of 2013 the project still has barely any revenue and the NFBA Board had voted to extend the term of the grant for 60 days. Neither the General Manager nor the Board Chair had communicated any details of Federal Government acceptance of a grant extension.

In late 2012, General Manager Sucara, now able to hire anybody without Board approval, hired Magellan Associates, apparently with the approval of the NTIA's Doug Kinkoph and Chris Holt, to do additional community outreach for a fee which has cost the American People over $5,000 a week.

On November 30, 2011, the NFBA's then Interim General Manager, Richelle Sucara told the NFBA Board that the NTIA (Doug Kinkoph and Chris Holt) approved Ms. Doyle's  position and the salary. Also on November 30, 2011, NFBA Chairman Tommy Langford stated that Ms. Doyle was selected for her specific skill set "for what she knew" and that her position was related to the project's success. Ms. Sucara stated of Ms. Doyle, as well as three other employees, two of whom chose not to pin their careers to the NFBA, "These employees are critical and will be a major part in what makes the project substantially complete by January 2012 and fully complete January 2013."

Also during the November 30, 2011 Board meeting, the North Florida Economic Development Partnership's Jeff Hendry, a man who has in good measure based his career on obtaining government grants and who over the course of the NFBA grant has garnered approximately $300,000 in grant money for community outreach, said of Ms. Doyle's hiring, that it would present a sense of stability to the project.

Ms. Doyle's employment agreement was approved on November 30, 2011 and restated and approved again on February 8, 2012, with an expiration date of May 31, 2013. Her salary was $80,000 a year based on a 40 hour work week, which was $2,000 more than the grant approved amount.

The Termination

According to the complaint filed in Federal Court on January 25, 2013, on November 7, 2012, Ms. Doyle was terminated by General Manager Sucara without notice and without cause.

A confidential source has told the Observer that Ms. Sucara publically referred to Ms. Doyle as the "$80,000 a year janitor."

Ms. Doyle was reportedly also fired after hours during a phone call.

The law suit also claims that Ms. Doyle regularly worked in excess of 50 hours a week and that she was terminated because "she was attempting to distribute meeting agenda information to the Board of Directors."

The NFBA did not have in place a personnel policy manual "and did not have in place any procedures consistent with due process concerning its employees' property interest in their public employment."

Furthermore, the suit claims that "prior to her termination, the NFBA failed to provide Ms. Doyle notice of specific allegations against her concerning proper cause, lack of work or other legitimate reason for the adverse employment action."

"After her termination the NFBA failed to provide DOYLE her right to a fair and equitable grievance procedure determination before an impartial, mutually selected party."

The suit claims that as a result of the conduct of the NFBA, "through Sucara and Langford," Ms. Doyle "was terminated without due process of law and suffered irreparable harm."

The suit also claims that the NFBA, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, willfully and intentionally misclassified Ms. Doyle as an exempt employee and as a result of that misclassification failed to pay her $60,000 dollars of earned overtime.

The Damages

Ms. Doyle, through her attorney, is claiming an excess of $200,000 in damages, but is willing to settle for $150,000 inclusive of attorney's fees and costs. The offer expires on February 8, 2012.


Early yesterday afternoon the Observer asked NFBA Attorney Jennifer Springfield, as well as General Manager Sucara and Chairman Langford the following:

1. Does the North Florida Broadband Authority have D&O insurance?

2. As you are well aware, the NTIA, specifically grant administrators Doug Kinkoph and Chris Holt, has turned its back on the requirements of the NOFA and made virtually all expenses of the NFBA grant eligible.

A. Do you feel that the defense of this law suit is a grant eligible expense?

3. Do you plan to have Cynthia Schultz consult with you on the defense of this law suit and continue her apparent unlicensed practice of law in the state of Florida?

4. Do you plan to settle the law suit and if it is not grant eligible do you plan to ask for more money from TD Bank or ask the NFBA member counties to contribute to the settlement?

5. Your wholesale violations of the Sunshine and Public Records laws are well documented. Do you plan to abide by the Florida Statues when moving into executive session to discuss these matters with the NFBA? Where is the NFBA going to get the money to pay for a court reporter and the required transcript?


At 5 pm yesterday, NFBA Attorney Jennifer Springfield emailed the Observer the following:

Your questions relate to litigation involving my client, the NFBA, therefore, we decline to respond.  I have instructed my client, including Mr. Langford and Ms. Sucara, to respond to you or anyone asking about this matter by referring them to me.

In an email sent out to the NFBA Board at approximately 5:45 pm yesterday afternoon, Attorney Springfield told the Board members that based on her preliminary analysis of the complaint she did not believe that there had been any wrongdoing by the NFBA or by Mr. Langford or Ms. Sucara individually. She also said she did not believe there was any merit to Ms. Doyle's claim.

Ms. Doyle's attorney, Ben Williams of Feldman Morgado, Jacksonville, did not respond to questions.

Comments  (to add a comment go here

On January 30, 2013, citizen49a of Lake City wrote:

With all due respect to Ms. Doyle, $80,000 per year is a bit much for a clerk/executive assistant in Lake City, Florida. Perhaps she has some truly unique and difficult to obtain skill set which warranted that salary, however, sadly, the fact that Sucara and the rest of the gang waxed on about her being indispensable to justify that salary doesn't necessarily prove that.

This sort of exaggeration to justify taking big scoops of the people's money for salaries is commonplace when the royalty pull their chairs up to the table and tuck into a good meal at taxpayer's expense.  Look at Ms. Sucara's salary, for instance. What "specific skill set" and knowledge "related to the project's success" did she bring to the table for $15,000 per month? I have an idea, but I suspect that it's libelous to state it, so I'll leave the reader to his conjecture.

I am curious what, precisely, is meant by the statement that Ms. Doyle was fired for "attempting to distribute meeting agenda information to the Board of Directors."

That sounds like a typical job duty for a clerk, and "meeting agenda information" sounds like information entirely appropriate, indeed likely necessary for the Board of Directors to have access to.

So what's the rest of the story? Do we know what specific "meeting agenda information" was involved?

Now I do not have any idea what is up and I don't mean to make any implications,  but it may be useful for Ms. Doyle to know that the federal government has provisions under the False Claims Act for making significant cash awards to whistleblowers who provide evidence resulting in the government recovering money when it has been defrauded.

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

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