SARASOTA -- Sarasota County has filed a lawsuit against Sanborn Studios, claiming the Lakewood Ranch-based film production company did not create jobs promised as part of an incentive agreement.
The county claims Sanborn Studios "breached the Financial Incentive Agreement by failing to create 117 new jobs during the job creation period," according to the complaint filed in 12th Judicial Circuit Court. The county is hoping to recover damages "in excess of $15,000."
Sanborn Studios had been required to add 117 jobs with an average wage of $72,000 by Sept. 2, 2013, in return for $650,000 in incentives, according to an agreement signed in 2010 between Sarasota County and Sanborn Studios.
If Sanborn Studios could not create all the positions, the company was obligated to reimburse the county $2,992 for each unfulfilled job.
County officials say Sanborn Studios has not created any jobs since the agreement was inked and could owe more than $350,000.
Calls to Rick Elbrecht, deputy county attorney in Sarasota, were not returned Monday.
Manatee County did not contribute any funds toward Sanborn Studios or its projects.
Sarasota County's filing dated July 28 had not reached Sanborn Studios or its attorney as of late Monday, said company spokesman Scott Sobel.
"Sanborn Studios still knows that it has abided by all contracts, has kept its word and also knows that the county's actions have hurt taxpayers and hurt the county's reputation," Sobel said.
Sanborn Studios contends it created nearly 200 jobs and even met Aug. 9, 2013, with county officials, including Jeff Maultsby, director of Sarasota County's Office of Business and Economic Development, to discuss the company's progress. Maultsby could not be reached for comment Monday.
"As soon as Sanborn Studios' attorney reviews the suit, they will consider all options and make statements at that time," Sobel added.
Sarasota County handed over the $650,000 grant in 2010 after the studio promised lucrative productions that would put the region on the map as a destination for film and television production.
The studios's first major pilot, "Miami 24/7," went into production in November 2010. Two reality TV series and two independent films were also lined up, but after stalled production dates, the projects never materialized.
In December 2011, Ken Sanborn, chief executive officer of Sanborn Studios, and Karinne Behr, studis president, terminated the lease for their Lakewood Ranch facility at 7321 Trade Court.
In 2012, Sarasota County shifted to a pay-for-performance method for doling out incentive money. Instead of granting all funds up front, the county now gives out money after jobs are created.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.