FAMU whistleblower awarded $258,000 in back pay
A jury has awarded $258,000 in back pay to a former FAMU official in a case that helps explain why FAMU lost its dominance in recruiting the nation's top black students.
Dedra Azonobi O'Neal, a St. Petersburg native and former coordinator of the Life Gets Better scholarship program, said she felt vindicated by yesterday's decision, which came more than four years after she filed suit and seven years after she started pointing to problems in the program's funding.
"This has been the longest seven years of my life, and my family's life," O'Neal told the Gradebook this morning. "For seven years now, (FAMU officials) have been been trying to turn all of Tallahassee against me."
"It was a long process," she told the Tallahassee Democrat, "but if you see someone doing something wrong, you shouldn't be afraid to stand on the side of right."
As the St. Petersburg Times reported in 2007, former FAMU president Frederick Humphries testified at O'Neal's bench trial, saying she was a key reason for the program's success. O'Neal charged that FAMU officials retaliated against her in 2002 and 2003, after Humphries retired, when she alleged the programs were being financially mishandled.
As the Gradebook has reported, FAMU's recruitment efforts showed a glimmer of new life last fall, after a five-year slump. O'Neal said under state law, she is entitled to get her job back.
Ron Matus, State Education Reporter