Thursday, November 15, 2018
Florida News

Small world: Enterprise Florida and Richard Corcoran's law firm

A priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran in this year's legislative session is abolishing Enterprise Florida, the "unreformable" taxpayer-supported program that uses state money to attract private employers that Corcoran considers a complete failure.

Clearly, Enterprise Florida is no fan of Corcoran, so it may come as a surprise that the agency has repeatedly given legal work to Broad & Cassel, the law firm that employs the House speaker.

Enterprise Florida has done about $235,000 in legal work with Broad & Cassel over the past three years, the agency said. "Enterprise Florida hires legal counsel on a case-by-case basis, depending on a wide range of factors," spokesman Nate Edwards said.

Edwards said the hiring of an outside law firm is a business decision made by EFI's chief operating officer or vice president for administration, not by its board of political appointees, which is chaired by Gov. Rick Scott, who for months has criticized Corcoran and other House members for wanting to destroy an agency that is critical to job creation. In a speech in Pensacola Friday, Corcoran called Enterprise Florida a "pay to play" operation where board members' companies get incentive money.

EFI hired Broad & Cassel's Orlando office for legal issues related to a State Small Business Credit Initiative, a federally-funded program, as well as the deposition of an EFI executive in a case involving a personal bankruptcy of an executive of a firm that received state incentives. According to Edwards, "Enterprise Florida provides accounting and administrative services to the Florida Opportunity Fund and the Florida Development Finance Corporation. Broad & Cassel's invoices to the FOF and FDFC are for work directed by those organizations, but are processed by EFI and paid from FOF and FDFC funds."

Corcoran said in an interview that he had no knowledge of his law firm's work for Enterprise Florida and that the managing partner of the firm's Orlando office, C. David Brown II, is an "old school" attorney who has never raised the legal work or EFI's future with him. "It's an exceptional firm and it's a Florida firm," Corcoran said of Broad & Cassel. "That whole side has zero effect on this side."

EFI's Edwards said the agency and Broad & Cassel have had a relationship for two decades, long before Corcoran joined the firm. Corcoran joined Broad & Cassel's Tampa office in 2011, the year after he was elected, and was recruited by the late Steve Burton, who ran the firm's Tampa office. Corcoran brought with him one client, the Pasco County sheriff's office, and is of counsel, meaning he does not share in the firm's profits. He listed $175,000 in income from the firm on his latest financial disclosure statement.

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