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Official questions jail site dealings

In an apparent attempt to get the county to delay acquiring a jail site owned by a blind trust, State Attorney Brad King suggested in a letter Monday that no matter how the transaction is arranged, the trust's membership may have to be revealed. The county and Rolling Rock Trust had proposed a three-party transaction so the trust would not have to identify its beneficiaries, as required in a land deal with government.

That controversial arrangement, which may be approved today by the County Commission, would work as follows:

Frank Colitz, through his family's company, Lecanto Real Properties Inc., would buy the 100-acre site in Lecanto from Rolling Rock Trust. Lecanto Real Properties then would trade it for 100 acres the county owns nearby.

County Attorney Larry Haag says the arrangement would not require any disclosure, because Rolling Rock would not be dealing directly with the county.

But King apparently thinks differently.

The statute requiring the identification of trust members dealing with government also demands the law be interpreted "liberally" so "the actual parties benefiting from the transaction" are identified, King wrote in a letter to commissioners.

"I suggest that the three-party transaction will not alleviate the county from its obligation under Florida statute . . . of notifying the trust of the requirements of disclosure," he wrote.

King declined to comment on his letter Monday night.

Haag said "to protect the board," he would send letters to Rolling Rock representative Michael Mountjoy and to Colitz, telling them of King's opinion. He noted the law only requires the county to inform the other party of the disclosure requirement. The rest is up to the trust, he said.

But Haag also questioned whether the state attorney "really understands what's happening," adding that "he hasn't called me."

"The thing is, Mountjoy isn't selling to a government," he said. "I don't know how he's required to disclose."

If it is determined the trust must reveal its membership, it is unclear how it would be penalized if it failed to do that and then tried to continue with the transaction. No criminal penalties are mentioned in the statute.