Judge's order for councilwoman's family business leaves city short

Court order will cost Jacksonville taxpayers $490,000

By Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - City Councilwoman Katrina Brown and her family's barbeque business bankruptcy will cost taxpayers more than $2 million, the I-TEAM has learned.

News4Jax investigators continue to uncover new details about the family's financial fiasco while the business, Jerome Brown's Barbeque, remains open and under federal investigation. 

Brown, who represents Jacksonville's District 8 and is on City Council's Finance Committee, denies a conflict of interest even though she is a principal in the barbeque business that is being sued by the city. 

The federal judge's bankruptcy order attempts to get Brown' and her parents', Jerome and Joanne Brown, financial houses in order, professionally and personally.

The Brown family runs Jerome's Barbeque and Wings in the Moncrief area. When they opened a warehouse to bottle barbeque sauce, they promised to create 56 jobs and received a city grant. The I-TEAM learned that not a single employee was hired by the April 2016 deadline established by the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund.

By December 2016, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Small Business Administration and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office raided the warehouse. 

While we still don't know what's come of that joint investigation, the bankruptcy judge spelled out a restructuring plan to pay back a portion of what's owed.

The Brown family companies operate two businesses and owe the city a total of $572,000. The city is suing them separately over the $220,000 grant and a $350,000 loan. Of that, the judge ordered the family to pay back the city only $80,000 the next seven years.

That leaves city taxpayers $490,000 short.

Katrina Brown’s parents also owe $2.5 million in a separate Small Business Administration loan tied to the business.

The I-TEAM searched financial records and found Jerome and Joanne Brown have filed for bankruptcy four times in the 1990s.

Katrina Brown's debt to pay off her Porsche was also in the settlement. She got an insurance payout enough to cover the outstanding car loan. Documents don't disclose why, but sometimes you see payouts after an accident.

News4Jax reached out to Katrina Brown for comment, but had not heard back at the end of business Tuesday.


 

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