Alfie Oakes files lawsuit against Collier School Board over superintendent search

Naples Daily News | By Nikki Ross | May 22, 2023

Naples grocer Alfie Oakes is suing the Collier County School Board over its superintendent search, claiming they and their search firm violated Florida’s Sunshine Law.

“All I want is a fair process,” Oakes said Monday. “I think it’s all pretty self explanatory.”

In his lawsuit, which was filed May 17 with the Collier County Circuit Court , Oakes claims that the school board violated the Sunshine Law by allowing search firm Hazard Young Atea Associates to select 10 candidates out of 45 applicants privately, without public notice, public comment or minutes.

On May 4, the Collier County School Board in a 3-2 voted selected Leslie Ricciardelli, who had been serving as interim superintendent, as the district’s superintendent.

Ricciardelli took over as interim superintendent in December after former superintendent Kamela Patton, who was set to retire at the end of the 2022-23 school year, signed a mutual transition agreement with the school board.

The Sunshine Law

The Sunshine Law is a Florida law that requires all meetings of an agency, including school boards, to be open to the public. This extends to all documents or other materials made or received in connection to the agency.

Violations of the Sunshine Law can result in removal from office, noncriminal infractions and criminal penalties.

“The district ― including the superintendent ― does not comment on pending litigation,” District Spokesman Chadwick Oliver said in an emailed statement. Messages left with school board members were not returned Monday afternoon.

Oakes claims the selection of Ricciardelli as the next superintendent of Collier County Schools should be void due the alleged violation of the Sunshine Law.

In his lawsuit he’s asking the board to temporarily stop the board from entering into a contract with Ricciardelli until they go through the selection process again with the 45 original applicants in public meetings.

“There’s incredible case law to support everything that we’ve alleged,” Oakes said.

Alfie Oakes, center, stands alongside Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn and addresses the crowd during an election results watch party at Seed to Table in Naples Tuesday November 8, 2022. Ricardo Rolon/USA TODAY NETWORK-FLORIDA

Who is Alfie Oakes?

Alfie Oakes is a Naples grocer who owns Oakes Farms, Seed to Table, Oakes Farm Market and Food & Thought. 

His operations include a more than 1,400-acre farm and a fleet of trucks and drivers that distribute his produce across the country, according to his website.

He’s a high-profile Republican supporter.

And he’s no stranger to government battles.

Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oakes filed several pieces of litigation.

In 2020, he filed a federal lawsuit challenging Collier County’s mask order. A federal judge tossed that lawsuit out in 2021. 

Oakes also filed a federal lawsuit against the School District of Lee County in 2020 after the district ended its multi-million dollar contract when the CEO called George Floyd a “disgraceful career criminal.” 


Share With:
Rate This Article