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Business tied to Councilwoman pays money owed to city

City has threatened lawsuit over economic development grant

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A family business tied to City Councilwoman Katrina Brown that owed thousands of dollars in grant re-payments to the city of Jacksonville has caught up its loan account through December, city officials told News4Jax on Wednesday.

The business, Jerome Brown BBQ restaurant on Commonwealth Avenue on the Westside, opened in August at the same location where the family originally planned to launch a barbecue sauce manufacturing business.

The business is currently under investigation by the FBI, the IRS, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of the Inspector General and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

According to city records, the business owes $22,000 in back property taxes in 2015 alone. Records also show that the business has yet to pay nearly $19,000 in property taxes this year. The family also owes property taxes on its Edgewood Avenue restaurant – $2,700 in 2015, and $2,400 in 2016.

Earlier this year, the city of Jacksonville told another company linked to the Brown family, COWEALTH LLC, that it needs to repay a redevelopment grant, because it has not followed the terms of its agreement.

READ: City letter demanding payment | City letter advising grant default

The city said it could sue the company if the money is not repaid.

A letter, dated June 24 and addressed to JoAnn Brown, Katrina Brown’s mother, and COWEALTH LLC, stated that the company needed to pay $210,549.99 within 15 days. According to state records, JoAnn Brown 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.

Part of that grant money included federal dollars from the Small Business Administration.

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 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.

According to city officials, any jobs created by the restaurant will not count as part of its agreement.

City officials said last month that since the letter was sent, COWEALTH had made loan payments on Nov. 22 from May through October, but had not dealt with the default letter's demands.

READ: Last and final notice to COWEALTH

The company had until Dec.31 to pay its 2015 property taxes ($22,515.69), make its $1,884.10 loan payments for November and December, pay a late fee payment of $188.41 for November, submit all past due annual reports and submit all require tax returns.

City officials said Wednesday that the loan payments had been made, but that the city is still waiting on audited financial statements that were due Jan. 1.


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