New revelations obtained this week by FNF point to a cover-up by County Administrator Len Sossamon and the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners.
According to a partner/investor of the controversial Hernando County supported business, Transformation Aviation Services (TAS), County Administrator Len Sossamon and County Commissioners Wayne Dukes, Nick Nicholson, Diane Rowden and James (Jim) Adkins are covering-up deficiencies in the company’s contract with the county. The cover-up concerns the documentation of employees TAS is supposed to have on their payroll as of July 1, 2016 in order to continue to obtain more than $377,000 in free rent from the county for two buildings at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
The investor, Robert Watson, a Hernando County resident, claims that David Tidwell, alias David Dettiling, a convicted felon, has not met the contract requirements of the county and has bilked his investors of more than $125,000 over the past year. And, County Commissioners, along with County Administrator Len Sossamon, are helping him in a “cover-up scheme,” says Watson.
Watson, “Mr. Tidwell has squandered money that was intended for the growth and expansion of TAS and collected free rent ($377,000) from the people of Hernando County.”
FNF has previously reported that Tidwell had a felony conviction which in years past would have precluded him from a contract with the county. Yet, commissioners and County Administrator Len Sossamon in an act of desperation to prove they can attract businesses to the county have overlooked the conviction and made a sweet heart deal with a convicted felon.
“Just as Mr. Tidwell duped a 16-year-old child into an act of lascivious and unlawful behavior he has duped the hard working citizens of Hernando County in acts of outright fraud and robbery,” said Watson.
On Tuesday, July 12, 2016, at the BOCC meeting, Mr. David Tidwell made a presentation that offered few real facts about TAS and was obviously an attempt to give the illusion that TAS was meeting their objectives with the county. (see video)
Likewise, a request by FNF for public records sent July 6, 2016 documenting the number of TAS employees has gone unheeded by the county along with a request made of Chairman Jim Adkins that would have allowed Tidwell’s partner/investor, Robert Watson, a chance to speak to commissioners during the same meeting.
Had Mr. Watson been allowed to speak at Tuesday’s meeting he would have told Sossamon and Commissioners that in May 2016 there was only one employee on payroll and that Tidwell closed the payroll account soon thereafter forcing this employee to be paid in cash. This is a far cry from the minimum requirement of 9 employees (80% of 12 employees per the contract) TAS is supposed to have by July 1, 2016 in order to continue to receive more than $377,000 in taxpayer subsidized rent.
As we have reported before, Sossamon continues to mislead commissioners who seem to be only too happy to go along with the fraud for purely political reasons.
It will be interesting to see if Valerie Pianta, Hernando County’s Economic Development Manager, will continue to support the BOCC and Sossamon and certify Tidwell’s compliance with the contract after these claims by Watson become public. Will the pressure from Rowden, Dukes, Nicholson, Adkins, and Sossamon be too great?
In addition, Mr. Watson claims that Tidwell owes the IRS over $47,000 in back taxes, that his surety bond and his liability insurance required by the county on the hangars and welcome center leased with the county have lapsed, and that Mr. Tidwell is in arrears of his own legal counsel.
It would be “a tragedy if the citizens (of Hernando County) were to lose this asset due to the incompetence of Mr. Tidwell,” said Watson.
“Mr. Tidwell has duped the BOCC and the taxpayers of Hernando County into believing that restoration work is being performed in these hangars. Mr. Tidwell has successfully collected $2,000 per month in hangar rent (while getting free rent from the county) on the two aircraft that are sitting in hangars paid for by taxpayers. But, ironically no restoration work by TAS is being performed on these aircraft as claimed by County Administrator Len Sossamon (as previously reported by FNF). This is a far cry from the projected $122,000 per month of revenue that TAS was proposing to do. There is not enough work to sustain Tidwell let alone any employees.”
Watson continued, “There seems to be $15,000 dollars that is unaccounted for while the setup of TAS was taking place.” It has been suggested that this money was paid to local businessman Tom Barnett. “I want to know where this money went and for what services or asset it was assigned to. And, I want those people held accountable for any wrong doing.”
“As a Hernando County resident, I want you, the taxpayer, to know what is really going on at our airport and recoup the monies that you have given to this fraud while demanding that our County Commissioners and our County Administrator Len Sossamon do their due diligence to keep this from happening again,” stated Watson.
When we asked Watson if Sossamon should be fired over this fiasco, he responded, “Absolutely!”
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