Tuesday, August 20, 2013

County Commission Tells Economic Development Commission To Turn Over BlueWare Documents

VIERA, Florida -- The Brevard County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to request that the Economic Development Commission of Florida Space Coast (EDC) relinquish its documents regarding BlueWare to the Brevard County Clerk of Court, Scott Ellis, so that he can continue his research and investigation into BlueWare's dealings with former Clerk of Court Mitch Needelman.

BlueWare is the company caught up in a public corruption criminal case brought by Florida State Attorney Phil Archer against Needelman, his former business partner Matt Dupree, and BlueWare CEO Rose Harr.

As reported by Brevard Times in July 2012,  the EDC had helped BlueWare and some of its affiliated companies to qualify for various government programs such as Florida's State Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund, Quick Action Closing Fund, Brownfield Redevelopment Jobs Bonus Tax Refund Program, and other "workforce incentives" that could have totaled at least $1.31 million, plus a local match of somewhere between $250k to $350k from the City of Melbourne and Brevard County.   None of those incentives were ultimately awarded to BlueWare because it did not meet its performance benchmarks.

"The EDC’s role in the BlueWare project centered on best-practices economic development activities," EDC President and CEO, Lynda Weatherman said in a release.  "This was a competitive project -- Michigan was willing to offer up to $3 million in incentives to keep the company - and it took more than a year of work, including highlighting our skilled workforce and strategic East Coast location. Once the project was secured, our interaction with the company concluded."

"Like the rest of the community, we were saddened to see the alleged inappropriate procedures that transpired by those who will now face justice, Weatherman added.  "On the other hand, the part of this process that performed exactly as it should involved the benchmarks and protocols associated with incentives. Though state and local incentives were approved for BlueWare, because the company failed to achieve the performance-based requirements that accompanied these and all incentives, it did not receive a single dollar of incentive funding from the local community."

The Brevard County Commission also voted unanimously today to rescind those incentives the County had awarded BlueWare.

"We've had a big recent turn of events this last week-and-a-half, with one of our former elected officials being arrested, and it was really due to the efforts of Scott Ellis and Matt Nye bringing out and exposing what's taken place with BlueWare," Brevard County Commissioner Trudie Infantini said before making her motion that the EDC turn over the documents. "In light of that, I have some deep concerns regarding the EDC and their unwillingness to turn over documents to the Clerk of Courts regarding what transpired with BlueWare."

This is not the first time that Infantini has voiced her concerns regarding the EDC's refusal to hand over its BlueWare documents to EllisInfantini told Brevard Times back in February that, “The BlueWare transaction has been questioned by Scott Ellis for well over a year.  In spite of all his efforts to prevent this transaction from taking place it still went through.  People in a position of authority have violated the public trust and withheld public records from Mr. Ellis.  And even now that Scott has been elected back to Clerk of Courts he is still being stonewalled and records are being withheld.”

Infantini also made a second motion at today's Commission meeting that the County Commission use either its external/internal auditors or have the Clerk of Courts audit the EDC.

"There's no allegation of wrongdoing," Infantini said.  "However, the EDC has never had an audit other than a financial audit.  Financial audits just show, "Did you spend the money where you said you spent it?"  It doesn't show whether or not you spent it as you should."

"I don't have a problem with it," said County Commission Chairman Andy Anderson.  "Since it is an expenditure, it should be put as an Agenda item." Anderson then recommended that either Infantini or County staff place it as an Agenda item for the next Commission meeting. 

Brevard Times was the only news source to continue a series of in-depth investigative articles led by Charles Parker into this story.