TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Commission on Ethics is investigating allegations state Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, abused his position in getting more than $2.5 million awarded to his start-up company, including sponsoring legislation that awarded a tax break to a company providing revenue for his enterprise.
Last month, senior ethics investigator Robert Malone notified Grant and the complainant, Hardee County resident Henry Kuhlman, the probe had begun. Until it is complete, the ethics commission can’t comment or provide documents relating to the case. The only ones with access: the ones charged in the complaint and the one who filed it.
For two years, Kuhlman has spearheaded an effort to account for more than $2.5 million that Grant began receiving in 2011 after Hardee County officials awarded his then-unnamed company the money. It is from a pot of $42 million the phosphate giant Mosaic gave the county in exchange for mining rights. Hardee officials dole out funds to applicants in hopes they produce jobs.
Grant vowed he would create jobs through a company he’d later call LifeSync. He said it’d produce $26 million in sales by 2014. The product he’d create: Blue Water. Users would access personal info via a smartphone and carry a blue card that could be swiped to manage data or provide info to medical professionals.
Kuhlman says Grant hasn’t delivered. His complaints helped sparked two other investigations.The State Attorney’s Office in Bartow closed a probe last year into Grant’s business dealings and found no evidence of criminal misconduct. But an auditor general’s report raised concerns over how Grant’s company was awarded the money and the lack of oversight of it.
The latest probe could focus on whether Grant abused his position as a state lawmaker. Kuhlman says that months after LifeSync Technologies was awarded the Mosaic money, Grant co-sponsored HB 7087, a 22-page bill that became law after the 2012 session and benefited the Mosaic company. On page 13 was a tax exemption for equipment and machinery used in phosphate operations.
Mosaic spokesman Roberto Nelson said the company has no control over how Hardee awards the grant money. Grant was one of 17 lawmakers to sponsor the bill, which Nelson said was needed to remedy a glitch in the index to calculate the tax rate. “Mosaic never discussed the issue with him,” Nelson said.
Grant said he’d fully cooperate. “All I have wanted since these allegations were first made was the opportunity to establish with finality that they are frivolous,” he said.