JACKSONVILLE — The city of Jacksonville recently filed suit
against two companies co-owned by Councilwoman Katrina Brown and her
mother, JoAnn Brown, claiming a breach of contract.
Named in the suit are CoWealth LLC and Basic Products LLC, citing
a failure to fulfill requirements agreed upon in a 2011 redevelopment
plan that were aimed at creating new jobs for the community, the
Florida Times-Union reported.
As part of the agreement, CoWealth LLC received $210,549 in grants
for the purchase of the building at Commonwealth Avenue, along with
renovations and equipment, for the Jerome Brown BBQ plant. In
exchange, CoWealth promised to create 56 permanent jobs that were
sustainable for a period of 24 months. CoWealth received the money,
but failed to produce the jobs.
The suit was filed as a result of the companies’ failure to
comply with conditions set forth in a final notice dated Dec. 2, 2016
from the Office of Economic Development. The letter,
signed by Executive Director Kirk Wendland, asked for back loan
payments for both November and December and late fees totaling
$3,956.61; as well as unpaid property taxes for 2015 in the amount of
$22,515.69. The letter also requested submission of all past due
annual reports and Guarantor tax returns.
stated that “[i]f all of the above conditions have not been met by
Dec. 31, 2016, we will direct the Office of General Counsel to file
litigation and use all legal remedies available to cover the city’s
The official legal complaint
was filed by the Office of General Counsel on Feb. 7, 2017, citing
breach of contract of the Redevelopment Agreement against both
CoWealth LLC and Basic Products LLC. The complaint details five
separate written attempts to cure the defaults via certified mail
beginning in May 2016, with no response. The agreement says that the
city “has been damaged” by this breach of contract. The city is
seeking to recover the funds granted as part of the redevelopment
plan, the Florida Times-Union reported.
The Florida Record reached out to the Office of General
Counsel for comment. Public Information Officer Tia Ford said only
that “we do not have any information to provide regarding pending
Councilwoman Brown is no stranger to controversy. In addition to
the pending lawsuit from the city, the building listed at
Commonwealth Avenue in the complaint was raided last December by
agents from federal agencies including the FBI, IRS and the Small
Business Administration, who were reported to have taken evidence
from the facility. Brown is also part of a foreclosure
suit involving property associated with CoWealth and KJB
Enterprises, another business that she co-owns.
During the 2015 election, Brown faced
scrutiny associated with overdue property taxes owed on the
Repeated attempts by the Florida Record to reach
Councilwoman Brown for comment have gone unanswered.