TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Brevard County Clerk of Court Scott Ellis indicated that he will file a lawsuit later this week regarding a public records request for BlueWare documents he made to the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast (EDC) after it was revealed by Brevard County Attorney Scott Knox that the BlueWare documents are considered confidential despite a unanimous request by Brevard County Commissioners that the EDC turn over BlueWare's documents to Ellis.
The most serious contention made by Ellis as the basis for the lawsuit, as reported by Brevard Times in February, is that the EDC colluded with BlueWare to back-date a confidentiality request that laid the foundation for an extension of confidentiality for a second year.
When Brevard Times researched the issue at the State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity incentives portal, the information regarding BlueWare had surprisingly already been made publicly available by the State of Florida despite the purported confidentiality extension.
This is significant because, according to the DEO website:
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE PORTAL
The portal includes every non-confidential incentive project with an executed contract since 1996 that received or is on schedule to receive payments from the state of Florida. Projects that are confidential or approved but do not yet have an executed agreement and projects that have withdrawn or decided not to proceed with the incentive are not included. Confidential projects, as defined by Florida Statutes, will be included once their exemption from the state’s public record requirements has expired. (Emphasis Added).
Highlighting this apparent conflict, Brevard Times reached out to both the DEO and Governor Rick Scott's office and cited the confidentiality documentation arguments made by both Ellis and the EDC with the documents in question posted in our February article.
In response, DEO Press Secretary Jessica Sims made the following statement:
"In March 2013, we learned that BlueGem, an affiliate company of Blueware, was under investigation. We contacted them to remind them that per the agreement, Blueware was required to notify DEO in writing of any developments that impact the implementation or operation of the agreement or the project, and they failed to do that. DEO terminated the contract on April 5, 2013, prior to the company receiving any incentive money due to non-compliance. This is an example of DEO holding a company accountable and performing the compliance function entrusted to us by the taxpayers of Florida effectively.
Since their confidentiality period with the state has expired, information regarding the state incentives Blueware received is available on DEO’s Economic Development Incentives Portal at http://www.floridajobs.org/
office-directory/division-of- strategic-business- development/economic- development-incentives-portal."
“Those who break the law and defraud our citizens must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Florida Governor Rick Scott. "The Department of Economic Opportunity did not pay this company any incentive funds and canceled their contracts on April 5, 2013. We are committed to ensuring that every necessary safeguard is in place to protect Florida taxpayer dollars.”
After hearing about the State of Florida's position on the confidentiality of the BlueWare documents, Ellis said, "We will request all information on Blueware from both the State DEO, Enterprise Florida, and the EDC."