BRADENTON – In the ongoing woes of Hardee County, one of the poorest and most economically depressed in the entire state, it seems that the county may have awarded millions of dollars to little more than a shell company owned by politicians and politically-connected front men. 10 News investigative reporter Mike Deeson recently broke a story that again has county taxpayers up in arms.
State Representative Jamie Grant's "LifeSync Technologies" was awarded $2.6 million from the county in a deal he said would bring much-needed jobs to the area through a cloud-based medical records operation. 10 News reported that public records indicated Grant (R-Tampa) had strong ties with State Representative Jason Broduer (R- Orlando), State Representative Ben Albritton (R-Hardee), and his brother, Hardee County insurance agent Joe Albritton, who was on the board that gave Grant the money. In fact, he even abstained from voting on the LifeSync issue because he was "part owner."
According to the report (click to watch), the tangled web continued through Jim See, who headed the county agency that issued the grant. Mr. See is the Albritton brothers' uncle and even shares office space with Joe. See even had a son who was hired by the company. Sue Birge, Chair of the Hardee County Commission, also had a son who was hired by LifeSync.
What looked bad on the surface only got worse when the Florida Auditor General released a report that said the multi-million dollar grant should have never been awarded. It said the company wasn't legally qualified to get the money, didn't offer proof it was capable of delivering, and that the county didn't have a plan to monitor how LifeSync was using the money. The audit report also said that the $2.6 million didn't bring economic benefits to Hardee County.
The Auditor General further says the politicians then violated their agreement with Hardee County by selling their interest in the grant money to another company before any product was ever even developed, receiving more than a million shares of stock in the new company. In the end, it seems the $2.6 million created exactly 10 jobs, three of which went to people related to the officials who doled out the taxpayers' money. Whatever economic development LifeSync brought, was apparently limited to a very small circle.