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Whistle Blower Act Violations Claimed, Kelly Lowrey, Former Star Quarterback, Sues the Cnty 5

Kelly Lowrey said no mas to kickbacks. Then there was trouble.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Yesterday, in what may be the first in a flurry of lawsuits, Kelly Lowrey, Columbia County's Sports Marketing Director and former Columbia High and FSU star quarterback, filed suit in Lake City against the County Commission ("County 5" or "The 5").

The complaint alleges that Assistant County Manager Scott Ward, who was recently given the stamp of approval by County 5 Chair Sylvester "Bucky" Nash, is alleged to have "harassed and mistreated" Mr. Lowrey.

The lawsuit also claims that Paula Vann, Director of the Tourist Development Council (TDC) and Mr. Lowrey's immediate supervisor is responsible for "defamatory statements" against him.

Mr. Lowrey has been employed by the County as Columbia County's Sports Marketing Director since December 2014. His job is to organize bookings with outside promoters who want to use the county's sports facilities to hold events and tournaments in Columbia County.

The lawsuit alleges Mr. Lowrey was "informed by a co-worker that Scott Ward" and other county workers "would regularly drink and play poker together." At these poker games a "hit list" of County employees was discussed for termination. "That list included Plaintiff."

Issues in the Work Place

In December 2015, Mr. Lowrey made a request that he be excused from a county festival scheduled for February, "because it had nothing to do with sports." Mr. Lowrey was having surgery on his foot.

The lawsuit alleges in December 2015, Mr. Lowrey "was wrongfully reprimanded and suspended for three days without pay." The reason: "he failed to 'take care of one' of the tournament promoters who used the County's sports facilities."

Also included as the reason for the reprimand and suspension was Mr. Lowrey's non-attendance at the February festival "that hadn't yet occurred."

In March 2016, Scott Ward began contacting promoters to find out why they were cancelling their bookings with the County. Mr. Ward went out of his way to ask about Mr. Lowrey and ask if they were "cancelling because of him."

The Lake City Reporter
"Lowrey had cost the county over $3 mil"

The complaint states, "On June 12, 2016, the Lake City Reporter published an article claiming that Plaintiff had cost the county over $3 million by cancelling tournaments and failing to attract promoters to the county. These allegations are false."

It is not clear at this time if Mr. Lowrey is going to sue the Lake City Reporter for libel.

It is clear that on May 25 the TDC met. The cancellations were discussed. The Lake City Reporter was there.

Paula Vann                (file)

The lawsuit claims that Ms. Vann made false statements to the Lake City Reporter, including that Mr. Lowrey "had 'personality conflicts'" with some of the promoters; that Mr. Lowrey had been "disciplined several times;" that the economic impact of his actions was "considerable."

Ms. Vann also claimed that Mr. Lowrey was "responsible for roughly 80% of the cancellations that had taken place" and that he was "responsible for souring relationships with promoters" and that he had to be "disciplined as a result."

Finally, the newspaper claimed that Ms. Vann said Mr. Lowrey "lies with regard to facts and figures" and that he has a "history of intentionally not following through on assignments and intentionally not following instructions."

The suit claims that Mr. Lowrey's discipline "suffered during his employment was part of a plan to mistreat him until he resigned his position" and not because of any "work deficiency."

The suit claims that Mr. Lowrey was "blindsided" by the article.

Asst. County Manager Ward Makes a Visit

Scott Ward               (file)

On June 13, 2016, Mr. Ward apparently went on a mission of damage control and visited Mr. Lowrey in his office.

Mr. Ward wanted to close the door and chat. Mr. Lowrey said he didn't want to talk to him with the door closed. Mr. Ward became upset. Mr. Lowrey told him he was going to get an attorney. Mr. Ward left, "visibly angry."

Mr. Lowrey "immediately" emailed County Human Resources and explained he was "experiencing a hostile work environment and the effect of the newspaper article needed to be remedied immediately."

The County Investigation

The Complaint states:

The County investigated Plaintiff's complaint and issued a cursory and conclusory statement that there was no hostile work environment, Vann's comments to the newspaper were taken out of context, and Ward had no list of county employees he intended to fire.

Mr. Lowrey claimed that since he sent the email he has been completely isolated by his co-workers and is rarely involved in any meetings or conversations and when he is included in a meeting no one speaks to him in any meaningful way.

Whistle Blower Act, FL Statute §112.3187

According to the complaint, Mr. Lowrey "reported and disclosed violations of state rules, regulations and laws to a person who had the authority to investigate, police, manage and otherwise remedy the violations"  he reported.

After he reported the information, Mr. Lowrey "was the victim of retaliatory actions."

Mr. Lowrey reported "misfeasance, malfeasance and/or gross misconduct" by employees of the County.

These reports were conveyed "in writing and/or were made to supervisors and/or other persons within the County who could remedy the violations. After reporting these matters [to the County] adverse actions were taken against him."

Prohibited Action / Retaliation

Mr. Lowrey claims that the FL Whistleblower Act prohibited the County from taking adverse personnel action against him.

After he made his disclosures, Mr. Lowrey claims the County retaliated against him for his "whistle blowing" activities.

Mr. Lowrey is asking for a jury trial.


The Columbia County 5 from left to right: Commissioners Ronald Williams;
Rusty DePratter; Bucky Nash; Everett Phillips; Scarlet Frisina

Columbia County and the County 5: the legend continues.

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Links to articles about Kelly Lowrey and Columbia County:
Mob-Like Settlement Agreement Leaves Former FSU QB Kelly Lowrey's Reputation Mired in Murk
Nov 18, 2016
Former FSU Quarterback, Kelly Lowrey, Still Passing for Touchdowns for Columbia County
Sept 23, 2016
Whistle Blower Act Violations Claimed, Kelly Lowrey, Former Star Quarterback, Sues the Cnty 5
August 24, 2016
  Kelly Lowrey, the Man Who Knows Too Much, Puts County on Notice: "You've defamed me"
August 7, 2016