Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Hernando County says Transformation Aviation Services breached incentives contract

BROOKSVILLE — In July 2015, when David Tidwell made his pitch before the Hernando County Commission seeking financial incentives and promising to bring 125 jobs to Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, his Transformation Aviation Services airline refurbishing business was expected to be one of the year's best economic development successes.

A year later, social media was buzzing with claims that Tidwell was not meeting his obligations under the incentive program approved by the commission. It was one of a series of criticisms leveled during the election season against Len Sossamon, who juggles the jobs of county administrator and economic development director.

Only July 12, 2016, Tidwell reassured commissioners that all was well with his business, presenting them a slideshow of his facility and repeating his commitment to the airport. When then-commission Chairman Jim Adkins asked Tidwell if he was in compliance with his contract with the county, Tidwell responded, "Yes, sir.''

The county staff agreed, saying Tidwell had met his minimum employment requirements.

But just 15 days later, the county sent the company formal notice that it was not keeping up with the requirements in the agreement. Another notice demanding a response followed in September.

Last month, the county filed a legal complaint against the company, alleging that Transformation Aviation Services breached its contract. The suit states that the company failed to provide a sworn statement testifying to the number of qualifying jobs it created and failed to provide proof of insurance. In addition, the county sought payment for $115,203 from August 2015 through June 2016 for leasing airport space without fulfilling the requirements to qualify for free rent.

The county also sent the company another invoice for rent due from July until November 2016, totaling $60,446.94.

According to the complaint, the company surrendered the property in early December.

Tidwell's business at 15421 Technology Drive was on the same site as the failed Brooksville Air Center and the shuttered Corporate Jet Solutions. Both of those previous tenants ended up with financial issues, and Corporate Jet Solutions is still in litigation with the county.

Tidwell could not be reached for comment.

Deputy county attorney Jon Jouben declined to comment on the pending litigation.


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