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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Former FAMU employee loses whistle-blower suit

The woman who headed Florida A&M University's top scholarship programs under former President Frederick Humphries has lost a whistle-blower suit against the school. A Leon County circuit judge ruled Monday that Dedra B. Azonobi O'Neal, 45, did not prove FAMU officials retaliated against her in 2002 and 2003 after she alleged the programs were being financially mishandled.

Judge Thomas Bateman III instead sided with FAMU officials, who said O'Neal became increasingly hard to work with after interim President Henry Lewis assigned her to a new boss and other administrators re-located her to another office. FAMU essentially fired O'Neal in the summer of 2003. She filed suit in June 2004.

Her case touches on the crown jewel of FAMU's academic success under Humphries: its ability to recruit brainy black students with lucrative scholarships that often included internships with Fortune 500 companies. Humphries appointed O'Neal, a St. Petersburg native, to head the Life Gets Better scholarship program in 1996. And he testified at her trial that she was a key reason for the program's success.

- Ron Matus, state education reporter

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:16am]


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