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Jax Councilwoman Katrina Brown

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Bank moves on BBQ biz associated with Jacksonville councilor

Last week, Ameris Bank moved for a Summary Judgment against KJB Specialties, one of the troubled businesses associated with Councilwoman Katrina Brown (a member of the council’s Finance Committee.)

Back in 2007, KJB Specialties borrowed $50,000 from Ameris Bank. Payments were made as agreed until March 2015, during the time when Councilwoman Brown was running for office.

Brown, running as one of Corrine Brown‘s “quick picks” against an experienced political veteran in Pat Lockett-Felder, scored a victory some would have called an upset in the May 2015 election.

However, as the councilwoman’s electoral and political fortunes rose, KJB went AWOL on its loan and other financial obligations.

Principals were informed of the default in August 2015, and the impending legal action a month thereafter.

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Now the bank demands what is due: a $37,490 principal; $1,399 of interest; $253.40 in late charges; and $7,681 in legal fees.

KJB Specialties was in the news already this month for warrants incurred for failure to pay sales tax.

Another Brown business, “Basic Products, LLC,” likewise was in the news for failure to pay sales tax.

These are, alas, the tip of the iceberg.

The base of that iceberg: a $640,000 economic development agreement to build a barbeque sauce plant.

The deal was initially struck between the city and KJB Specialties. However, for reasons unknown to anyone beyond the Browns, KJB handed the deal off to another Brown business with a nebulous name (“CoWealth, LLC”) and no apparent purpose beyond providing a financing mechanism devoid of tangible product or economic utility.

The city has been taking progressively more direct action in attempting to clawback some of its squandered seed money.

On January 5, a Certified Letter was sent from Jacksonville’s Office of Economic Development to CoWealth, LLC, related to the company failing to create the jobs it was supposed to.

The letter that the city received the “required annual surveys” for 2012 to 2015, in which the company was supposed to create jobs at the Northwest Jacksonville barbecue sauce plant location on Commonwealth Avenue.

These surveys were due long before Jan. 5. And there seemed to be a good reason to delay sending them in.

OED said CoWealth created no jobs; zero falls somewhat short of the 56 jobs agreed to.

“Therefore, the full balance of the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund grant, $210,549.99, must be repaid.”

OED wanted payment in full within 60 days of the letter.

It seems the city’s Office of Economic Development may have to get in line behind other creditors.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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