Former Fernandina Port operator haunting Port Authority with high legal expenses
Image via Worldwide Terminals.

'We had upwards of 40 lawsuits involving the previous (Port) operator last year.'

The four-year tenure of Chris Ragucci at the Port of Fernandina was a time of heartburn and frustration for a lot of people and entities who had to deal with Worldwide Terminals and its subsidiary Nassau Terminals. 

“We had upwards of 40 lawsuits involving the previous (Port) operator last year,” Commissioner Miriam Hill said. “Forty separate lawsuits.”

It also cost money to the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA), the public oversight Board for the Port, and continues to cost OHPA as they pay the Port Attorney Patrick Krechowski to deal with the many ongoing legal issues related to Ragucci’s time, before he sold to a partnership of Utah and New York firms.

“I’ve asked Patrick for a better number next year, for what his expectations are for what his billing will be in the next year,” Port Accountant Pierre Laporte said about the 2022-23 OHPA budget at the Authority’s last meeting. “So, given the cases or the things outstanding, and things he’s working on, $30,000 is what we budgeted. It’s our standard that has been in our budget.”

The $30,000 number is what’s in the contract for legal expenses, but Krechowski is tasked with doing a lot more than the minimal amount of Port Authority legal work. As such, Laporte asked him to come up with a figure he thinks is appropriate for the next year’s legal costs.

Krechowski, who was unable to attend the meeting, hadn’t provided that number to OHPA yet, Laporte said, but total legal expenses for OHPA in the next fiscal year are expected to be more than $30,000.

The compensation for Krechowski, OHPA Chairman Danny Fullwood said, comes around to $163,570, which is the same number as budgeted for the last fiscal year. Hill suggested the dollar amount of legal expenses could be at an undesirable level.

“When you think about it, in the context of that much litigation, ($30,000) is really not a lot, but it is crippling to this Board.” Hill said.

Even Ragucci’s arrival to the Port was under a legal cloud.

ASM Capital secured the services of Ragucci for a business venture involving the ports at Fernandina and St. Marys, Georgia. But in the process, the firm’s lawyers said Ragucci misled it and essentially stole the Port of Fernandina for himself.

ASM Capital and Sanford Scott and Co. sued Ragucci and Worldwide Group in December 2019 in New York. They chose to sue in the 4th Judicial Circuit in order to compel Ragucci’s companies to turn over the records. ASM believes Ragucci essentially stole the Fernandina Port from under it while ostensibly working for ASM.

A local judge found Worldwide Terminals guilty of civil contempt in the Florida action and recently awarded attorneys’ fees as a sanction.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:

One comment

  • Fed up

    August 26, 2022 at 7:52 am

    Ragucci has a 35 year history of swindling and destroying everything he touches. True sociopath.

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