Court Orders Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast To Produce Documents In 15 Days
|EDC CEO Lynda Weatherman Brevard Clerk of Court Scott Ellis |
BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – After three years and tens of thousands of dollars spent in legal fees to prevent their disclosure, the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast (EDC) has been given 15 days by a Brevard County Circuit Court to produce documents sought by Brevard County Clerk of Court, Scott Ellis, related to BlueWare.
After privately reviewing the documents before issuing his order dated August 1, 2016, Brevard County Circuit Court Judge John Dean Moxley, Jr. found that the EDC’s income and balance sheets, along with an email ” … referenced in Respondent’s privilege log do not constitute trade secrets and they are not otherwise subject to statutory exemptions …”
BlueWare is the company caught up in a public corruption criminal case brought by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and State Attorney Phil Archer against former Clerk of Court, Mitch Needelman, his former business partner Matt Dupree, and BlueWare CEO Rose Harr. Their criminal trial is scheduled to begin in September.
The EDC helped BlueWare and some of its affiliated companies to qualify for various government programs and other “workforce incentives” that could have totaled nearly $2 million in taxpayer money. None of those incentives were ultimately awarded to BlueWare because it did not meet its performance benchmarks.
After the Clerk’s office learned from a Brevard Times investigative article published on August 26, 2013 that State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity officials said the BlueWare’s confidentiality had lapsed and Governor Rick Scott’s Office stated to Brevard Times that the BlueWare incentive contract was canceled on April 5, 2013, the Clerk sent his auditors to the EDC in Rockledge the next day to request a copy of the EDC file on BlueWare. When the EDC refused to comply with the public records request, Ellis then filed this lawsuit.
In March 2014, the trial court ruled in favor of Ellis. The EDC then appealed that decision to the 5th District Court of Appeals. In October 2015, the appellate court then sent the case back to the trial court for a second trial. The EDC and Ellis later settled the case in March 2016, with the EDC agreeing to produce all documents not exempt under Florida Statute Chapter 119 and section 288.075.
Brevard Times was the only news source to publish a series of in-depth investigative articles about the BlueWare scandal led by former reporter, Charles Parker.