18th Judicial Circuit Court Denies Bond Validation In Blue Origin Economic Incentive Grant Case
By Space Coast Daily // August 23, 2018
SCOTT ELLIS: 'This is a win for good government'
BREVARD COUNTY • TITUSVILLE, FLORIDA – Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Judge Jeffrey Mahl has denied Brevard County’s complaint for validation in the County’s seeking to borrow $8 million to fund an economic incentive grant to private aerospace company Blue Origin Florida, LLC.
The Clerk intervened in the County’s bond validation suit on the grounds the County cannot borrow for operational purposes, and the bonds were not lawful. Neither the Florida Constitution, Florida Statutes, or County Charter allowed for the issuance of debt to fund operating expenses, in this case, an economic incentive grant.
“We thank Judge Mahl for intently evaluating the evidence and argument presented in this case,” said Brevard County Clerk of the Circuit Court Scott Ellis.
“This case was important for the Clerk to ensure the County could not obtain unfettered power to bond operational expenditures. The very plain language of the County Charter has been upheld.
“This is a win for good government requiring the County and the North Brevard Development District live within their means. The case had potential statewide significance and we are very thankful to have prevailed.”
Both the County and the Clerk presented expert testimony during a two-day evidentiary hearing in the case.
The County’s expert opined on economic principles, while the Clerk’s expert provided the Court a background on required governmental accounting practices. Those practices, the Court found, govern what debts the County may issue.
The Court also found that while the County has broad home rule powers, it did not have the ability to subvert the Florida Constitution’s balanced budget requirement. The issuing debt for an economic incentive grant was “in conflict with general law and the Constitution” as well as the Brevard County Charter.
The Clerk was represented by J. Carter Andersen, David Banker, and Cate Parsley of Bush Ross, P.A. in Tampa as well as Rebecca E. Lober, the Clerk’s staff counsel.
The Brevard County County Commission approved the incentives grant in 2015 with a 4-1 vote, with Trudie Infantini being the only commissioner opposed.
Infantini, who termed out as the District 4 commissioner in 2016, is currently running against incumbent District 3 Commissioner Curt Smith in a hotly contested Republican primary race that will be decided next Tuesday.
Blue Origin manufactures, processes, integrates and tests its orbital launch vehicle at the company’s 70-acre facility located at Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Park.
The Brevard County Clerk of the Circuit Court is the keeper of all the court records in the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit for Brevard County. The Clerk is the comptroller, county recorder, and clerk to the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners.
Scott Ellis has served as Clerk since 2012, having previously served as Clerk from 2001 – 2010.
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