A Hardee County grand jury report slams former Tampa state Rep. Jamie Grant and other public officials for taking $2.7 million for a medical startup company that it says promised enormous returns and failed to deliver.
The grand jury did not indict anyone involved in the project, but the report raises serious questions about the manner in which it was handled.
The report says the money was awarded in October 2011 to Grant's company, LifeSync Technologies, which enables users to store medical records online securely. The company wasn't formally incorporated when it applied just weeks before.
It says Grant, a Republican, "brought no equity, no startup capital, no business track record and no credibility to the table."
The report also criticizes Hardee County players such as Bill Lambert, director of its Economic Development Council, and the Industrial Development Authority, which awarded the grant.
"Bill Lambert and the IDA Board Members let down our citizens by failing to ask the questions that need to be asked and investigate the claims made by those looking to take advantage of public money," the report said.
Lambert, reached late Wednesday night, said the grand jury failed to tell both sides of the story.
Grant, who represented eastern Pinellas County and northwest Hillsborough County from 2010 to 2014, echoed Lambert's dissatisfaction with the report. He wrote in an email Wednesday afternoon that "the success of this project has been blatantly misrepresented." It employs 34 people in Hardee County, he said, and continues to grow. Grant is running in a special election for House District 64 scheduled for April 21.
The report, handed down in January, was first disclosed by WTSP-Ch. 10 last weekend. It blasts Grant for the way in which he obtained the money, but also focuses on the careless vetting by Lambert and county officials.
The report says Grant partnered with Travis Bond, a longtime family friend and owner of Continuum Labs, a Tampa-based consulting company. Officials knew about Bond's involvement, the report says. Still, they never included it in the contract.
Like his contemporaries, Bond called the report "a one-sided and harsh critique of the IDA" and said it failed to mention the success of the project. "Currently the project is generating over $1 million in annual payroll in Hardee County alone," he wrote in an email.
Grant also teamed up with Heartland Technologies, the report says, after he was awarded the money. He wanted the company to help market his product, Blue Water, which strove to give subscribers access to sensitive records and a card that could provide information to medical professionals.
The problem? Heartland Technologies was owned by then state Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, and his brother Joe Albritton, an insurance agent and IDA board member who stood to "benefit financially" from this transaction. The state Commission on Ethics later said Ben Albritton and Grant did not abuse their elected positions.
Still, Grant and Bond made several big claims during their 2011 pitch, the report says. They said 10,000 to 15,000 Blue Water customers "would be ready to go on day one." They said that number would double by the end of 2012, and earn $1 million. They said the number would balloon to 400,000 by 2014, and gross $26 million.
"Without vetting," the Internal Development Authority accepted these claims, the report says. And not much good came of them.
"As of the end of 2014," the report said, "these projections have proven to be mere smoke and not even come close to being met."
Contact Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @zackpeterson918.