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North Florida Broadband Authority:
Secrecy and a lawyer's spread sheet
It's business as usual at the NFBA

Jennifer Springfields lawyer's spreadsheet
The NFBA management gives up nothing to its member municipalities and blatantly ignores Fla. public records laws. Enlarge +++

Lake City, FL – The North Florida Broadband Authority (NFBA) has been racked with insider dealing, conflicts of interest, allegations of waste, fraud, abuse; massive procurement irregularities, incompetence, outrageous salaries, background and credit history cover-ups, including a cover-up by the Feds of an investigation by the Office of the Investigator General of the Department of Commerce. The NFBA is over a year behind schedule. After spending over $23,000,000 of the $30,000,000 of Obama stimulus money, the NFBA has, at the most, a handful of people using its continually redesigned wireless broadband network and has squandered millions.

Covered in part XXI of the series was the now bankrupt Mainstreet Broadband. Mainstreet was already in the process of being shut down by the Feds as the NFBA prepared for its August 1st meeting. No one with whom the Observer has spoken believes that the insiders at the NFBA did not know that the bell had tolled for Mainstreet.

The NFBA: Keeping secrets or playing dumb?

The event relayed to the Observer regarding a visit to NFBA headquarters by a Mainstreet customer at about 11 am on the morning that the rest of the world already knew of Mainstreet's demise crystallizes the most recent business practices of the NFBA.

On August 2nd, William Elwood, Chief Petty Officer USNR retired, reached out to the Observer. Mr. Elwood was concerned about his internet service and the NFBA's business partner, Mainstreet Broadband.

Mr. Elwood told the Observer that at about 11 am on August 2nd, after visiting the locked up office of Mainstreet in Lake City, he drove to the NFBA offices to find out what was going on.

Mr. Elwood said, "I had learned from the Observer that the NFBA and Mainstreet were business partners. When I walked into the offices only one person who was there was an attractive secretary. Then someone walked out of a back office and introduced himself as Pat O'Neal, Vice Chairman of the NFBA. I told him Mainstreet had gone out of business and I was wondering if he could help me. He told me, "'I don't know anything about that.'"

NFBA needs $9,227,000 – Instead they get a "lawyer's spread sheet"

Jennifer Springfield
Attorney Jennifer Springfield presented a "lawyer's spreadsheet" to the board.

By February of 2013, the North Florida Broadband Authority needs to come up with $9,227,000 of in kind assets.

Beginning in 2010, the NFBA has been paying FSU's Jeff Hendry through a contract with the NFEDP (North Florida Economic Development Partnership) approximately $10,000 a month for community outreach to identify and sign up anchor institutions and in-kind assets.

An in-kind asset is something of value that can be given to the project by one of the NFBA member counties or cities instead of money. In the case of the NFBA, this has been generally tower space and land for future tower space.

It appears that the valuations on these properties may be problematic.

NFBA project manager, Donny Lort, explained that the federal government valued those assets.

Cynthia Schultz
Washington Attorney Cynthia Schultz at the Aug. 1 meeting. The NFBA management refused to explain Ms. Schultz's job or who she is working for.

Recently, consultant to the NFBA, Cynthia Schultz, the $500+ per hour Washington attorney of Patton Boggs and the Schultz Group, one of the authors of the Obama grant, had determined that an in-kind asset includes monetary reimbursement for the time that NFBA board members spend attending the NFBA Board meetings. This means a board member, such as a county manager, city manager, or county commissioner, an individual who is being paid by its municipality to watch over the NFBA expenditures of the Obama free money, which is being spent on equipment and contractors that are supposed to benefit their communities, are now having a monetary value put on their time and that value is being contributed to the project as an in-kind donation.

Some folks think this is double dipping.

How much money has been claimed for board member time?

This has been kept top secret by the General Manager, Richelle Sucara, and the Board's General Council, Jennifer Springfield. Together, they have locked down the numbers and refused to comply with Florida's public records laws and turn over that and other information, which the Observer has requested numerous times.

In-kind asset contributions: how much?

In the past two and a half years how many and which in-kind assets have been contributed by the members of the NFBA, the recipients of the $30,000,000 of free Obama money?

Again, this is being kept top secret by General Manager Sucara, General Council Springfield, and Board Chairman and the newly elected Tax Collector of Gilchrist County, Tommy Langford.

The American people, the source of the Obama money funding this project, have spent well over a million dollars on accounting and grant compliance fees since the awarding of the grant.

For those who have been the recipients of this money, spread sheets are their business.

Richelle Sucara is an accountant and was certified in Indiana over 20 years ago. She never received her certification in Florida, but that is carefully hidden on her resume, as City Manager Wendell Johnson found out in October of 2011. One would presume Ms. Sucara knows how to produce a spread sheet. (You can also read about Ms. Sucara here).

The present accounting firm, Purvis Gray, has produced spread sheets for the NFBA in the past.

The well connected Washington lawyer/compliance officer, Cynthia Schultz, clearly knows how to produce a spreadsheet.

With all this talent in the room, NFBA General Council, Jennifer Springfield, stood up at the August 1st NFBA Board meeting and handed the Board what she called a "lawyer's spread sheet" without any dollar amounts and which by the time February 2013 rolls around has to add up to $9 million plus.

Not one NFBA member, the local stewards of the American people's money, asked for a total. If the NFBA comes up short, it is the member communities of the of the Authority that must make up the difference in cash, although some Obama watchers are thinking that they will get a free pass, also.

It's business as usual at the NFBA. 

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On August 22, citizen 49a of Lake City, FL wrote:

Personally, I would be completely humiliated and ashamed to show my face in public if my name were associated in any way with the NFBA or any of it's efforts. But, there are quite a few people, many of whose names appear in this story, who don't mind at all, apparently.


On August 24, 2012, a FL resident wrote:

What about the jobs they were supposed to create along the way with stimulus?  Did the government require some sort of project plan where milestones were carefully tracked and accounted for?  I thought Joe Biden was going to make sure this money was not wasted in Stimulus?  Great reporting Stew and please keep us Florida residents informed.  Thank you


On August 24, citizen 49a of Lake City, FL wrote:

What gets me the most about this is that nobody does anything about it.  Miscreants get caught with their hands in the cookie jar and all that happens is they shuffle a few of parasites around a little. Then we get to sit here and watch it go on and on and on, for years, with no law enforcement authority doing anything to stop it. Why should the perpetrators stop?  Why in the world wouldn't the next person with an opportunity to pad his pockets go ahead do so?

If the bank's doors were wide open and anybody who wanted to could just walk in there and grab a big handful of somebody else's cash whenever they wanted to, don't you think a lot of people would do it?  It looks to this writer like that's the situation we have here in Columbia County and NO ONE WITH THE AUTHORITY TO SOMETHING ABOUT IT GIVES A DAMN.

Why is that? What's wrong with these people charged with enforcing the law? If something is out of their jurisdiction they just turn their heads and pretend as if they don't see it.

The NFBA isn't the only case.  The NFBA is just the poster child for standard operating procedure in this county at all levels of  government. The Observer has chronicled numerous similar ongoing instances of local government behavior that cry out for investigation, audits, explanations, and discipline for what must be open violations of records laws, but nothing happens. No one does a thing. Business goes on as usual.

But whatever you say about this place, don't accuse these people of being illiterate uncultured hicks. No sir, they may be playing with millions instead of billions, but they're no slouches when it comes to emulating their role models in Washington. 


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)