The city of Jacksonville has thus far been frustrated by its dealings with CoWealth, LLC, the family business of Councilwoman Katrina Brown.
Frustrations continue this week, with a curious legal filing from CoWealth on Wednesday that led to a sharp response from the city on Thursday.
CoWealth LLC, one of the Brown family’s group of nebulously named companies, is being sued for $210,000 by the city of Jacksonville for failing to create jobs in a 2011 economic development agreement intended to help the Browns take their BBQ sauce business to the next level.
On Dec. 2, 2016, the city sent one in a series of certified letters to JoAnn Brown, the councilwoman’s mother, stipulating that CoWealth failed to create 56 jobs and maintain them for five years (a requirement of the economic development deal), and that the company failed to provide audited financial statements for the years 2014 and 2015.
CC’d on the letters: Councilwoman Brown, a manager of CoWealth and a member of the Finance Committee.
CoWealth offered an interesting response to the complaint this week, asserting that there was a “verbal agreement” with the city’s Office of Economic Development to “dismiss the requirement of submitting audited financial statements for the years 2014 and 2015.”
The Office of General Counsel, when asked about the assertion, said that “since this is in pending litigation status, we can’t comment on the evidence or merits of the case. Future filed pleadings will provide the City’s position.”
Indeed, a filed pleading on Thursday did just that, looking to strike the filing on the grounds that Mrs. Brown is not an attorney.
“Mrs. Brown is a managing member of each Defendant, as well as Defendants’ registered agent; however, according to Florida Bar records, she is not an attorney,” read the filing from Jacksonville’s OGC.
“Mrs. Brown’s representation of Defendants in this litigation isimpermissible because it is the unlicensed practice of law. Therefore,” the filing continues, “the Answer should be stricken and Defendants should be allowed an opportunity to retain counsel.”
Of course, the defendants actually have a lawyer related to another business facing the same issue.
In late February, “KJB Specialties” hired an attorney specializing in bankruptcy cases to handle a foreclosure action against the building housing “Jerome Brown BBQ.”
One might wonder why they didn’t use that attorney in the current case.