FDOT replaces Paul Wai, Turnpike chief who oversaw SunPass collapse

Wai will be replaced by SunRail CEO Nicola Liquori.

Update (8.16.19): The Florida Department of Transportation officially appointed Nicola Liquori as the next Executive Director of the Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE), effective immediately.

According to a statement from FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault on Friday morning: “Going forward, SunRail operations will be under the leadership of FDOT District 5 and by District Secretary Mike Shannon.”


The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) replaced the head of its Turnpike system, Paul Wai, late Wednesday, more than 440 days after he went ahead with the doomed SunPass go-live last summer without proper testing.

Wai, who has served as the executive director for the Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) since Feb. 2018, has been re-assigned to an unspecified position within an FDOT district office.

He’ll be replaced by SunRail CEO Liquori, a certified public accountant and former Turnpike CFO.  The state also announced SunRail operations and oversight will be shifted to FDOT’s District 5 office.

Florida Politics has detailed Wai’s oversight role in the failed SunPass system upgrade last year, which was scheduled to take place over the course of two weeks in early June.  The meltdown and ensuing disruptions, which included massive toll backlogs and account errors, now stand at 441 days and has left several agencies on shaky financial ground.

Florida Politics has also detailed the lack of accountability from FDOT and FTE leaders, from meager fines for contractor Conduent, to the lack of discipline for the executives and engineers who were tasked with project oversight.

On Wednesday, Florida Politics published a story about FDOT and FTE failures to comply with Florida’s public records laws by not turning over requested documents pertaining to the SunPass collapse.  

Governor Ron DeSantis and his new Secretary of Transportation, Thibault, have promised more accountability at FDOT since they each took office in early 2019.

Liquori should be quite familiar with cleaning up a Conduent mess; before she took over the top spot at SunRail, the system’s customers endured months of problems related to ticketing. The ticketing system was operated by the technology division of Xerox, which would later be spun off into the company known as Conduent.

Noah Pransky

Noah Pransky is a multiple award-winning investigative reporter, most recently with the CBS affiliate in Tampa. He’s uncovered major stories such as uncovering backroom deals in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium and other political investigations. Pransky also ran a blog called Shadow of the Stadium, giving readers a deep dive into the details of potential financial deals and other happenings involving the Tampa Bay- area sports business.


  • Tom Rask

    August 15, 2019 at 10:23 am

    The fact that the SunRail CEO is leaving to take this job tells me that she doesn’t think SunRail has a bright future. State funding evaporates in mid-2021!

  • Sonja Fitch

    August 15, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    My daddy was a crane operator for construction on Buckman. Daddy did the math in his head and trained some Ga Tech graduates as they built the DOD funded project .He also had common sense! Who in the world designed the Sunpass Fiasco? The danger of the toll rode is
    evident from a novice me, trained by my Dad that this thing is a death trap. Sunpass on I295 and 9A in Jackdonville is a disaster waiting to kill and maim. The absurdity and dangers posed are wrongful and negligible law suits against State coming soon! Get rid of this joke for. A few piddly dollars

  • Jack S

    August 16, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    The real person who should be responsible is the previous Executive Director, Diane Gutierrez. Mr. Wai is a victim of the last ED’s disruptive tenure.
    I feel very sorry for Mr. Wai who is an outstanding employee for the state

    • Peter

      August 26, 2019 at 4:10 pm

      Diane awarded the contract per the directions of Rick Scott. After the contract is awarded she quit immediately even before implementing the project. Top people made the money. Sunpass project migrated in hurry burry before Rick Scott left the office. Rick Scott knows contract is scandal, that’s why he quickly migrated to conduent before he left office. Now, Diane went to NJ as acting director of the state’s Transportation Trust Fund Authority. God bless NJ. What Paul Wai is doing when all these things are happening? Did he raise any red flags? Every year, fdot employees has to complete mandatory trainings. One such training is ethics. Where is it?

      If Diane is corrupt – Paul Wai, Buzz, Tooraj Nowzamani, etc., are responsible for this scandal as well. No one raised the red flags or did anything. Busy looting? Entire management in Boca Raton/Ocoee Office should be fired. They all boot lickers and corrupt. Clean it up and start fresh.
      Management is involved in corrupt practices….any action/investigation? By just reassigning Paul Wai to different district office is not going to help. It is merely eye wash. We need to investigate what these managers are doing.

Comments are closed.


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