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SunPass Day 49: FDOT consultant resigns, lawmaker calls for free tolls

The consultant issued her resignation hours after 10Investigates revealed how she suggested more transparency on FDOT's SunPass meltdown, but state leaders quashed the approach.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Hours after 10Investigates revealed a concerted effort by the Florida Department of Transportation to downplay its SunPass crisis, the agency abruptly announced the end of its relationship with a longtime consultant who in June, who had unsuccessfully suggested the agency be more transparent on the growing problems.

INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: 10Investigates' ongoing SunPass series

On Wednesday, 10Investigates reported on internal FDOT emails from mid-June that revealed how the agency developed its response to questions from SunPass customers and media outlets, including 10News.

Agency spokespersons frequently ignored simple questions, instead choosing to communicate almost exclusively through optimistic press releases. But on multiple occasions, consultant Leigh Anne Yarbrough, president of L Squared Business Solutions Inc, suggested a different approach as the planned "six-day maintenance," scheduled to be done June 11, stretched into weeks.

"We are also disappointed by these first few days...the rollout of the new system should have been far better," Yarbrough suggested writing to SunPass customers on June 12.

But FDOT executives instead decided for a less detailed, less conciliatory approach to its customer email update sent to millions of SunPass account-holders.

A week later, 10Investigates broke the news that FDOT had not processed any tolls statewide since the start of the month and its backlog of unprocessed transactions had grown to 50 million. A month later, the state continues to refuse to acknowledge the depth of its problems, estimated by 10Investigates to include a backlog of now approximately 133 million transactions.

This is a chart of FDOT's toll backlog, now estimated somewhere north of 132 million transactions. Exclusive from 10Investigates.

Other SunPass developments exposed by 10Investigates:

FDOT officials confirmed Yarbrough's departure Thursday; attempts to reach Yarbrough directly were unsuccessful.

State Representative Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, also penned a letter to Gov. Rick Scott Wednesday, calling for a full investigation into the contract and the forgiveness of more than $100 million in toll charges that are stuck in a backlog.

She told 10Investigates that "Tollgate" outraged her - not just for the system failure, but also the state's failure to communicate with the public and State House members.

If you are a Florida driver with concerns or problems related to SunPass disruptions, contact 10Investigates’ Noah Pransky at npransky@wtsp.com. Or join the ongoing SunPass conversation on his Facebook page. And let him know who you think should be held accountable.

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