Candidate Pops Up in Investors' Legal Fight; They Say DeSantis Was Legal Counsel for Ex-Tea Party Leader
Dixon, Matt, The Florida Times Union
Byline: Matt Dixon
TALLAHASSEE | A legal spat between former First Coast Tea Party Chairwoman Billie Tucker and a handful of well-heeled investors that helped fund her start-up conservative media organization now involves a Republican congressional candidate.
Documents recently filed by the investors ask a Jacksonville federal court to require Tucker to "compel" her top consultant to hand over documents they say he is withholding. The consultant, Orlando resident Clyde Fabretti, says he has nothing more to offer and the investors are on a witch hunt.
The new court filings, for the first time, also rope GOP congressional candidate Ron DeSantis into the messy legal fight. Investors say he served as the company's general counsel, a claim both DeSantis and a company attorney say is overblown.
As part of a much larger request, attorneys representing the investors are seeking all communications DeSantis had with Tucker's company. She has turned over thousands of pages but objected to turning over the DeSantis communications, citing attorney-client privilege.
In 2011, Tucker started Big Voices Media LLC. She envisioned it as a counter-balance to current media outlets that "lie, distort and manipulate the truth in politics," according to the company's business plan. The firm's website currently calls itself a "beta" or test site.
The investors involved in the lawsuit said Tucker unilaterally increased the number of top investors bankrolling Big Voices. Investors said the move devalued money they already had invested.
Nine groups ofaearly investors poured $250,000 into the network. Three, with a total investment of $100,000, are involved in the lawsuit.
In what those investors called a "race to the courthouse," Tucker filed a lawsuit first. She was seeking to have the court rule that the investors could not have their money back.
There has been a dizzying array of motions and counterclaims filed since. In the motion seeking documents from Fabretti, who is not a party to the lawsuit, investors' attorneys say that Tucker's "failure to request" documents from him is part of a legal strategy.
"Big Voices and Billie Tucker have attempted to maximize the burden and expense of litigation for the defendants in the case," he wrote.
Robert Fojo, who represents Tucker and the company, says his clients have no means to get documents from Fabretti.
"He has a contract with the company for business consulting services; that's the extent of his involvement," Fojo said. …