TAMPA — Influential east county political activist and donor Sam Rashid has twice in recent years walked away from seats on prestigious boards because of fallout over his controversial posts on social media.
Now, he is suing a 21-year-old former employee for her Facebook post.
In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County on Friday, Rashid claimed that he has been libeled on social media by Jacqueline Lilley, a former receptionist at a Brandon hair salon and spa he co-owns.
The complaint against Lilley includes a screen grab of a March 6 Facebook post about the salon in which she wrote that "the owners are thieves." The post also states that workers at Divine Designs Salon and Spa were ordered not to communicate with former workers who left on "bad terms" and she urged staffers there to leave.
Her post was hardly viral. It attracted more than 39 comments and was "liked" at least 14 times, the lawsuit states. Rashid, 55, is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.
One week after the post, attorney Brent Gordon wrote to Lilley on behalf of the salon demanding she delete the comment. If she complied within one day of receiving the letter she would avoid litigation, it stated.
Rashid said Tuesday that Lilley did not respond to the request and the post remained on her page for at least 10 more days. He said he acted to protect his business.
"Anything that damages the reputation of this salon also damages the ability of us to recruit top talent," he said.
The post was eventually deleted, but it's unclear when. Lilley declined to comment on the lawsuit.
She is not the first former salon employee to be sued by Rashid or Divine Designs.
In September, a lawsuit was filed against Amy Contreras, alleging she broke an employment contract in which she agreed to work for three years in exchange for training. She paid $500 to the salon in an out-of-court settlement, records show.
In March, the salon sued hair stylist Meghan Campbell, alleging that she tried to solicit business from clients after she quit.
Her attorney, Jim Thompson, said the case is groundless and has asked for its dismissal.
"I think their theory is go ahead and sue and the other people will give up," he said. "It's the bully approach to litigation."
Rashid said it's common for salons to enforce non-compete clauses that they require stylists to sign.
"We're not out of the norm," he said.
Company records filed with the state list Rashid as chief executive officer of the salon.
He is also CEO of a Plant City company, Holtec USA, which is the American arm of a German manufacturer of specialized sawing equipment.
A Republican and frequent donor in local political campaigns, he is regarded as something of a kingmaker in east Hillsborough County politics.
Rashid has run into his own problems on Facebook.
He was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority in 2014. But he resigned in October 2015 after widespread criticism of a post in which he called a prominent local political consultant a "taxpayer subsidized slut."
In another rant on Facebook earlier that year, he described three unnamed Hillsborough County circuit judges as "dumbasses."
That led to him declining a nomination from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to serve on the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission.
Senior Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Christopher O'Donnell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.