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Foreclosure action filed on Jacksonville councilor’s troubled family business

How much longer can a Jacksonville city councilwoman, whose family businesses have bombshell news reports every couple of days for failure to pay debts, stay on the council’s Finance Committee?

That’s the question in Jacksonville right now, as the saga of the family businesses of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown continues to move from sauce to loss.

On Tuesday, a foreclosure action was filed in Duval County by Florida Capital Bank on a property associated with “KJB Specialties.”

Councilwoman Brown is a managing partner of KJB.

The property, located at 1551 W. Edgewood Avenue, corresponds to the location of “Jerome Brown BBQ.”

KJB owes $100,902 on its note.

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This latest six-figure legal action continues a train of financial woes for Councilwoman Brown’s family businesses.

Last month, Ameris Bank moved for a Summary Judgment against KJB Specialties.

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.

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.

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.

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KJB Specialties was also in the news in January 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.

We checked with the city of Jacksonville this week, and no movement has been made from the KJB/CoWealth side.

January came and went with almost daily stories about the problems with KJB and CoWealth.

It doesn’t look like February will be much different, as it is clear that the loans and grants from private and public stakeholders have been squandered, with no tangible outcome for any investor.

 

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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