JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville has told a company linked to City Councilwoman Katrina Brown that it needs to repay a redevelopment grant, because it has not followed the terms of its agreement.
The city said it could sue the company if the money is not repaid.
The June 24 letter, addressed to JoAnn Brown and COWEALTH LLC, states that the company needs to pay $210,549.99 within 15 days. According to state records, JoAnn Brown, who is Katrina Brown’s mother, is the registered agent of COWEALTH LLC, and an officer of the company. Katrina Brown, elected to represent District 8 in 2015, is also listed as an officer.
According to the letter, the company agreed to create 56 new jobs on or before April 30, 2016, as part of its agreement for a Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund grant, but has failed to do so. The agreement also called for the company to submit annual reports regarding job creation, which the letter states also has not happened. The grant was to help the company launch a manufacturing facility to produce a wide range of products, including Jerome Brown's BBQ Sauce.
The Brown family also owns a barbecue restaurant, Jerome Barbeque and Wings.
Katrina Brown provided a statement to the I-TEAM, which reads in part, "We intend to fully comply with our obligation and will initiate dialogue with the City to renegotiate the terms that are set forth and takes into account the current number of jobs that have been created thus far and those that were previously agreed upon."
The family business also owes more than $22,000 in back taxes from 2015 for the manufacturing facility on Commonwealth Avenue, according to Duval County property records.
The I-TEAM also found a lawsuit Wednesday filed by The Jacksonville Bank, suing the Browns for failing to make payments on a loan.
The Office of Inspector General confirmed Wednesday that it has opened a preliminary review of Brown after receiving a complaint. It couldn't say what that complaint was about, which is common practice. The purpose of the review is to determine if an investigation is warranted.
The I-TEAM has also contacted the city’s Office of Economic Development, which sent the letter demanding the grant money be repaid.