TITUSVILLE – Brevard County Clerk of Court Scott Ellis has waited more than three years for this.
Earlier this month, the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast produced documents to the clerk’s office after years of legal wrangling.
“The documents show the Space Coast EDC did not simply facilitate the application process to the State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity but actively worked to make the deal ‘go,’’’ Ellis told the Florida Record.
‘’The financials clearly showed a company with nearly both feet in the financial grave and were rejected by the DEO. The EDC then worked with BlueWare to re-write the financials and set along their glowing praises of the firm.’’
The case revolves around the EOC and BlueWare, which faced corruption charges by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Charged were former Clerk of Court Mitch Needelman, former business partner Matt Dupree, and BlueWare Chief Executive Officer Rose Harr.
The criminal trial is scheduled to begin next month.
It is alleged the EDC played a role in helping BlueWare qualify for government programs that would have given the company almost $2 million from taxpayers. According to the Brevard Times, no money made it to BlueWare because the company did not meet certain incentive clauses.
The newspaper reported that in the documents that were released earlier this month, EDC President Lynda Weatherman referred to BlueWare's management as "goofy" and instructed staff to obtain a confidentiality extension from BlueWare days after Ellis had already made a public records request. Weatherman asked her staff to make the request to BlueWare without " ... looking like we are 'asking for it' just the usual stuff... "
Ellis said it has been a long, arduous process.
"The EDC had an FS 119 (public records) clause in their contract and the effort is financed by the taxpayers,’’ Ellis said. ''Rather than going through $100,000 in legal fees, the documents should have been presented to us. They clearly show a company with financial issues and vulnerable to accepting a local political deal to remain afloat.”
Ellis said he thinks the EDC actively thwarted access to the documents by backdating confidentiality agreements, and when they would have expired, claiming the EDC was not subject to any public records anyway and would not release the documents.
“When local and state government is giving away cash on the barrelhead financial incentives, there is a duty of the EDC to perform a proper arm’s length vetting of the applying corporation,” Ellis said. "They have no business instead becoming the cheerleader and accomplice with the firm in its pursuit of questionable financial incentives.’’
BlueWare, which claims it has the latest technology in data masking, has an anti-corruption statement on its website.
"BlueWare considers bribery and corruption in all its forms to be detrimental to legitimate business. The BlueWare reputation is built on our values as a company, the values of our employees and our collective commitment to acting honestly, fairly and with integrity throughout our organization and in all our business dealings, both in the USA and further afield.
"BlueWare embraces robust policies and procedures to ensure compliance with our commitment to act professionally and fairly in all of our business dealings and relationships. BlueWare takes a zero-tolerance approach to corruption in all its forms and does not accept it in our business or in those with whom we do business.
"BlueWare is committed to, and expects all those with whom it does business to be committed to, upholding the law relevant to countering bribery and corruption, both in letter and in spirit, and will actively cooperate with law enforcement authorities in the investigation and punishment of any act of corruption or bribery by any person employed by or associated with BlueWare.’’