A Dutch couple seeking to establish a multimillion-dollar business park in Citrus County said the project was in jeopardy this week after a Dutch newspaper published an article questioning the couple's background.
Jalbert and Hedwig "Tammy" Taminiau announced last week their intention to build an industrial park in Crystal River to employ more than 1,000 people.
But after they returned to the Netherlands a week ago, their local newspaper, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, published an article Thursday questioning the accuracy of the couple's resume.
Taminiau stood by the resume in an interview from the Netherlands on Thursday, but he worried that the resulting controversy would affect the park's viability.
"The best thing could be to cancel the project," Taminiau said in a telephone interview a few hours after the article was published. "There is so much harm to us here."
He said he had already received calls from investors concerned about the article. But he was confident of vindication.
"It is incorrect what is in the paper," he said.
After the Taminiaus made their announcement Oct. 21, the Times faxed the Dutch newspaper an in-house newsletter published by Tammy Corp., the company the Taminiaus founded.
The newsletter contained an article on the Taminiaus' background, including their education and previous places of employment in Europe.
Non-existant schools, shoddy job records
According to veteran business journalist Jos Goos, the Nieuwsblad found several inaccuracies in that article.
Of Mrs. Taminiau, 52, the newsletter states she:
Graduated from Bloemendaal College. The college doesn't exist, the paper said.
Received a degree in law from the University of Utrecht. The university told the paper she has no such degree.
Worked for the city of Utrecht in human resources. The city has no record of her employment, the paper said.
Worked for the company SKF Netherlands B.V. That company also has no record of her employment.
Was vice president of Intec PVBA in Belgium. The Central Bank of Belgium has no listing for such a company, the paper said.
Of Taminiau, 48, the newsletter says he:
Graduated from Adelbert College. The college doesn't exist, the paper said.
Graduated from the university with a degree in mechanical engineering. The university does not award such a degree, according to the paper.
Served as vice president of ITT Belgium. The company has since merged with the French telecommunications firm Alcatelbel, but company officials could find no record of Taminiau's employment dating back to 1981.
Is president of Tammy & Partners B.V., the couple's Dutch consulting firm. Instead, the paper said, the local chamber of commerce has Mrs. Taminiau listed as the sole director and majority stockholder under her maiden name, Hedwig Van Eijsden.
Has a first name of Jalbert. In fact, the paper said, Taminiau's real name is Jan Albert.
In addition, the Times checked with the two U.S. companies listed on Taminiau's resume.
The first company, Louisville-based American Air Filter International, could find no record of his employment back to 1988. Taminiau lists his job as Northern European sales manager of the firm, but doesn't say when he held it.
The second company, Drake America Corp., based in White Plains, N.Y., checked its files through 1947 and could find no record of Taminiau's having been vice president.
"I never heard of him. The man is either making it up, or he's dreaming," said R. C. Bruckenthal, the export company's marketing director.
Taminiau blames translation errors
When contacted in the Netherlands on Thursday, Taminiau said most of the Dutch newspaper's allegations could be explained by translation problems.
He said the colleges listed were actually high schools. He said Mrs. Taminiau had taken night courses but never graduated from the university. And, he said, he had received a technical, not university, degree in engineering.
But the company that published the newsletter said Taminiau had supplied the information and okayed it.
"He proofread it and approved it," said Bob Crowley, president of Crowley & Company Advertising Inc. "He made sure we were accurate."
As for their work histories, Taminiau said he and his wife hadn't worked for the companies mentioned in the newsletter for 15 to 20 years.
"Their records don't go back that far," he said, accusing the Dutch newspaper of failing to contact him to give him a chance to explain the resume.
He explained the change of his name to Jalbert as a way to ease pronunciation difficulties during international business contacts.
As for the U.S. companies, Taminiau promised to fax proof of his employment and a detailed resume to the Times office Friday.
Proof delayed by business trip
Instead, his wife, Tammy, sent a one-page fax about 6 p.m. to the office stating that her husband was on a business trip and had sent all the information to the office of the Economic Development Association, the private group that courted the Taminiaus to Citrus County.
Walt Driggers, a leading member of the group, said late Friday that the office was locked and both the president and spokesman for the group were out of town.
Driggers said his group, comprised of private business people who volunteer to act as the county's contacts for business inquiries, first received information about the Taminiaus from the state Department of Commerce.
He said his group relied on the department to do background checks.
"We are not the development police," Driggers said. "We're trying to attract manufacturing and that's what we've done."
Questions about the Taminiaus' background were not yet appropriate, he said.
"They've asked us for nothing," Driggers said. "They haven't asked us for investors; they haven't asked us for county approval.
"There's no reason for us to doubt anything or examine anything."
Coming days may define project
Department of Commerce spokesman James Call confirmed that the department had indeed performed a background check on the Taminiaus.
He said the department had contacted a branch office it operates in Frankfurt to check out the Taminiaus, but was not certain what scrutiny the couple had undergone because the staff member who did the check was on vacation.
"These leads are not passed out blindly," he said. "We did a lot of research on this company."
Taminiau said Thursday he would wait to see whether any investors pulled out of his project before deciding what to do about the planned Tammy Park.
The park would take five years to develop and require an investment of $5-million to $10-million, Taminiau said at a news conference Oct. 21.
He has repeatedly declined to name any of the project's financial backers. The Taminiaus' Dutch company is a small consulting firm that does about $100,000 a year in business, said Dutch reporter Goos.
The park, on Venable Drive off U.S. 19, would comprise 377 acres where up to 70 European companies could locate environmentally friendly factories to assemble their products.
It will be at least a year before construction would begin. In the meantime, Taminiau plans to establish at least one company at a temporary facility in the Meadowcrest development.
He has already booked a flight back to Florida in December. But, he said, the coming days will determine the project's future.
"Before the end of the year for sure," he said, "we'll know about the success or not."