Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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

The North Florida Broadband Authority, a coalition of 15 North Central Florida rural counties and 8 cities is funded by the American People. It was formed to bring broadband wireless internet access to rural North Central Florida. The NFBA continues like a bull in a china shop exemplifying why its funding was stopped, the project put on hold, and why it is under investigation by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Richelle Sucara, interim General Manager of the NFBA

The recent failure of Richelle Sucara, the new $200,000 plus NFBA interim General Manager to form meaningful ranking and rating committees from the entire NFBA membership and the continued criticism of the U.S. Government by the NFBA and its past contractors continues unabated.

The recent forced resignation of the project management firm, Goverment Services Group of Tallahassee (GSG is calling it voluntary) and the law firm of NGN, who also "voluntarily" stepped down has necessitated the NFBA putting out requests for both accounting and legal services.

The request for legal services has no cover page and the requirement for an electronic filing has been omitted. According to Ms. Sucara the NFBA staff, of which there is none, will review the proposals and they will then be forwarded to the NFBA Transition Committee for rating and ranking.

NFBA Request for Accounting Services

On November 7, 2011, the NFBA put out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for accounting services.

Lake City, City Manager Wendell Johnson

During the November 9th Transition Committee meeting, committee member Wendell Johnson, the City Manager of Lake City, asked who was on the evaluation, i.e., ranking and rating committee. Upon being advised that there was none, Mr. Johnson asked if it was going to be established at the next NFBA Board meeting, which is scheduled for the 16th.

General Manager Sucara told the Transition Committee that she had selected an advisory council from GSG. The two employees selected will not officially rank or rate the applicants. Then Ms. Sucara decided to form a ranking and rating committee right then and there. She asked for two volunteers. City Manager Johnson, who many consider to be an expert in government finance, volunteered. A short time later he told the Committee, "I don't profess to be an expert."

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Ms. Sucara then asked White Springs NFBA board member, Walter McKenzie, who just happened to be sitting in the audience, if he would volunteer.

Mr. McKenzie told the Transition Committee, "Accounting is not my strong suit, but I can slog through it."

Ms. Sucara, "I need a slogger. I need another slogger."

Columbia County's representative, Commissioner Scarlet Frisina said, "That's not my strong suit."

Gilchrist County's Tommy Langford

Gilchrist County's Tommy Langford volunteered. "I can wade through it, I guess."

Ms. Sucara explained the evaluation process.

Mr. Langford asked, "The only interview we will have with them will be their written proposals?"

Ms. Sucara explained that should there be questions by the committee a conference call would be arranged. She indicated that she expected there to be questions.

A few moments later the conference call idea was trashed and it appeared that no one would be asking questions of the firm that will be taking over the finances and the multimillion dollar budget of the NFBA.

Ms. Sucara explained that if anyone had a question of the applicant, they could ask her and then she would "seek clarification."

The Observer asked Ms. Sucara why she wasn't going to the rest of the NFBA board members for volunteers to be on the ranking and rating committee.

Ms. Sucara said, "I did ask for volunteers."

The Observer followed up, "But that's only here."

There were five Transition Committee members present and one NFBA member/guest. Not counting alternates, there are 23 NFBA board members.

Ms. Sucara continued, "... I'm a CPA and a certified government finance officer. I am certainly qualified to review these RFQ's." Ms. Sucara has not qualified to be a CPA in Florida.

Ms. Sucara explained that the two people [from GSG] will be advising her. "All three Board members that have volunteered to assist in this process are qualified enough to help me ... come up with the number one ranked firm."

The Observer asked, "They do the ranking?"

Ms. Sucara:  I have final say.

The Observer:  So no matter what they rank you can overrule them?

Ms. Sucara:  I have the final say. This evaluation and selection committee serves in an advisory capacity.

The Observer:  To you?

Ms. Sucara:  To me.

The Observer:  No matter what they do, you have the final say?

Ms. Sucara:  Yes... I haven't had time to even think of a selection committee until today... I feel with the document [RFQ]... I feel pretty comfortable that we're going to get an excellent firm on board."

Richelle Sucara – Czar Power – Re-Hiring the whole GSG crew

Ms. Sucara explained that she had offered employment opportunities to four individuals that are currently employed by GSG. These are new positions. The NFBA had no employees until last month when Ms. Sucara was hired. She did not advertise the new positions anywhere.

Ms. Sucara explained that she was "under the gun" and had to hire people immediately so she could have "boots on the ground."

The Observer asked, "Is there any emergency procurement schedule that the NFBA was using – or is it just you – you are the schedule?"

Ms. Sucara:   There are emergency procurement procedures in the procurement document.

There is nothing in the procurement document regarding personnel. There are no personnel manual, no employment application and no method used for hiring.

It had been clear for over a month that the NFBA was going to have to hire its own personnel. Without any guidelines, Ms. Sucara was free to do what she wanted. She did.

A Little History

On October 19, 2011, Ms. Sucara was hired by the NFBA Transition Committee while she was on vacation in Indiana with her mother. The NFBA made her contract effective on that day, rather than the following Monday, October 24th, when she could report to work.

On October 26th, Ms. Sucara explained to the Transition Committee that she was hiring five GSG employees. Two had been laid off – Denise Adkins and Donnie Lort, and one was still employed by GSG, Mike Avelio. Ms. Sucara also said that GSG employees, Pat Lien and Al Samball were going to be working as 1099 employees for the NFBA.

Other than the accounting crew, which is being contracted out, and Robert Sheets, GSG's owner, Ms. Sucara who suddenly appeared out of the mist at the NFBA on October 7th and explained she was bringing Alachua County's transparency values to the NFBA, appears to have offered to "re-hire" everyone from the resigned firm of GSG that was working on the NFBA project.


The North Florida Broadband project, a project that held great promise for many rural North Central Florida communities has been and continues to be financed by the generosity of all the American People.

The waste and abuse continues unabated as exemplified by the poster child NFEDP's $10,000 a month contract for questionable work product. The interim GM, Richelle Sucara, has now suggested hiring an ex GSG employee to help the NFEDP's Mr. Hendry with his public relations, community outreach and other duties.

If the Federal Government allows this project to continue it is supposed to be up and running, operational and money making by December 31, 2013.

With the NFBA's track record, if the Fed doesn't shut it down, it is a long shot at best.

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

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