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Did Hernando County Commissioners just give $377,000 to a convicted felon?

Did Hernando County Commissioners just give $377,000 to a convicted felon?

A bit of history. On April 15, 2011, the Tampa Bay Times, known then as the St. Pete Times, wrote of then County Administrator David Hamilton, “Facing yet another barrage of headlines about someone the county hired without finding the skeleton in the closet, several county commissioners on Friday had more hard questions for the county administrator.” The “skeleton” was a contractor the county hired with a criminal history. Hamilton lost his job soon afterwards.

Now, let’s go back a little further. In 2004, the ‘Times’ led the charge in outing a business owner who had a lengthy criminal history according to their investigation, which in turn caused the county to rescind their contract with the company, “TVSS Manufacturing Inc.

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Contrast that “storied history” of investigative reporting with the ‘Times’ of today who desperately wants the county to buy their $4.4 million dollar building (realtors tell FNF it’s worth about half that) on Cortez Boulevard.

When Florida News Flash (FNF) wrote an article announcing a deal the county had negotiated to bring a new company to the airport and noted that the company, Transformation Aviation Services (TAS), had just been incorporated using a UPS Store address in Lakeland, the ‘Times’ very quickly countered with a glowing article about David Doyle Tidwell, the owner of TAS.

But, after very little investigation by FNF staff, problems and issues began to quickly appear.

First, the county began stonewalling when we asked for information. In trying to research this company, and David Doyle Tidwell, the county refused to cooperate with FNF and denied every public records request made concerning TAS except for documents that were already posted on the county website. No phone numbers, no business addresses, no financial history, and no business application. When we asked for the same information the ‘Times’ used to write their articles, we were told that the county did not provide that information to them. We were told that the information was protected by “Confidentiality Agreements.”

Think about that. That means someone at the county, a commissioner or staff, is breaking the law by disclosing information that is protected by the “Confidentiality Agreements” which the county then uses to block FNF from getting the same information.

Back to David Doyle Tidwell, 58, of Lakeland.

First, Tidwell appears to have a criminal history according to emails and documents provided to us from the Florida Dept. of Corrections, Florida Office of Community Corrections (Probation Office), and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. The conviction stems from an arrest for ‘Lewd and Lascivious Act Upon A Child Under 16.’  (Click here to see the Polk County Sheriff’s documents)

At the time of the arrest, David Tidwell was working as an aircraft mechanic for Page AVJet in Orlando. This seems to validate a statement in the ‘Times’ article that Tidwell has “been in some aspect of the (aviation) business since the early 1980s.”

To lure the new company (TAS) to Hernando County, our county administrator, Len Sossamon, and county commissioners, agreed to let TAS have a 21,000 square foot hangar and a 4,500 square foot “state-of-the-art” welcome center rent free for three years.

The press release announcing the deal from the county states, “TAS is a premier provider of interior modifications and light maintenance for head of state and VIP corporate jetflorida-news-flash-ups-store-tidwell aircraft with more than 70 years of aviation experience.”

Yet, in researching TAS, we found that the company was just recently incorporated December 19, 2014. TAS has no business track record. The company used a UPS store address, located in Lakeland, for their incorporation papers. The incorporation papers show David D. Tidwell, 58, as the CEO and Registered Agent in Florida.

Another company that appears to be owned by David D. Tidwell, Flying Eagle Aviation Support, also uses a UPS store for their business address. The two UPS stores are located 2.8 miles from each other in Lakeland. FNF can find no physical business address for either company anywhere in the country.

Tidwell’s Linkedin page for Flying Eagle Aviation Support states that he has been Self-employed since May 2011 (4 yrs 3 mths), has a vast knowledge of corporate aircraft, and his specialty is large transport category completions and delivery. The page also returns a business location as the Greater St. Louis Area. Again, this was mentioned in the ‘Times’ article. However, there is no mention of how many employees Flying Eagle Aviation Support employs, if any.

The Linkedin page appears to match statements Tidwell provided to the ‘Times.’ The Linkedin page is the only, repeat, only internet reference we can find involving Tidwell and these companies. The companies have no website, no phone numbers, no physical address that we can document, or anything establishing that they are a going concern.

“I am excited to welcome Transformation Aviation Services to our community,” County Administrator Len Sossamon said in the prepared press release. “Manufacturing luxury planes is a niche market and I’m proud they chose Brooksville for its headquarters.”

The incentive package Sossamon negotiated with TAS includes 36 months of free rent. This equals $377,028 given to Transformation Aviation Services (TAS) over the three year period. The day the deal was approved by commissioners, TAS CEO David Doyle Tidwell remarked, “This was a lifelong dream.”

In making his presentation to the county commission, David D. Tidwell showed the commission 17 slides, 8 of which were before and after pictures of completed airplanes, that yielded virtually no information about the company or the people involved. The one tidbit of info contained in the document was Tidwell having over 40 years of aviation experience and that the founders and key management of the company have over 85 years of combined experience in the aviation business.

Several people watching the presentation that day wondered aloud, were the before and after pictures in the slide show actually of planes Transformation Aviation Services had completed?” Through FNF’s investigation, we now know that TAS could not have completed the jobs shown on the slides.

There are a lot of people in the community who question whether $377,000 spent on Transformation Aviation Services was a good use of taxpayer dollars.

Note: The only County Commissioner to return our calls for comment was Commissioner Jim Adkins. “This is the first I’ve heard about any criminal record,” Adkins responded.

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Samuel M. McCall attended Auburn University and has an MBA in Accounting. He currently lives near Tampa, Florida with his wife. They are fans of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Tampa Bay Lightning. And, during football season you'll hear Sam yelling "War Eagle" around the house on Saturdays which sometimes startles the two Rotti's, Ruger and Lyric. Sam's favorite read, "To Kill A Mockingbird." Favorite movie, "Unforgiven." You can follow Sam on Twitter @Dixiehighways

5 Comments

  1. Ah my Jewish Mafia theory relating to Leonard Sossamon is indeed gelling.

    St Louis is overseen by the Chicago Mob. Chicago also oversees Detroit where the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is based. Hernando county’s public sector (government workers) are organized though Teamsters local 79. Leonard Sossamon is from NJ and currently residing in NC which is overseen by the NY Mafia. Specifically the Patriarca and Cavalconti Crime families.

    Organized crime has been committing fraud in Hernando County for a long time. All under Leonard Sossamon’s oversight. He is a mid-level mob boss that facilitates wise guys like David Doyle Tidwell to come in and abscond with hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was with Teamsters involvement that the Dredge Project dragged on for nearly a decade at Hernando Beach and cost tax payers millions of dollars. Then another example of fraud was when Hernando county sold the old Lykes Hospital building for far less than it was worth. Now we want to make a fraudulent purchase of the Times building for more than twice what it is worth.

    Notice how tightly linked the Times, David Doyle Tidwell and Leonard Sossamon are? You’d think that if little old me can figure this all out so easily, why then hasn’t the HCSO not gotten involved? That’s easy, because the Sheriff’s office is itself union organized through the Police Benevolent Society; Which in turn answers to Teamster’s Local 79, under Hernado County Sheriff’s Union President Cpl. Steven Klapka’s oversight. And so now you see, even our law enforcement agency and highest ranking FBI agents in Hernando County are now controlled by the Mafia.

    That’s why all the tax hikes are now being imposed on us, with more of our money going into Hernando County’s coffers, so much the more can be defrauded and stolen to feed the Mob bosses!

    • Interesting theory, Lorn. But I may have another explanation. In order to have a real improvement in the economy, inviting more jobs and a better education system, you need less government spending. That isn’t possible with people like Sossamon and the commissioners who actually work for the county employees instead of the taxpayers. So instead they have to make an appearance of affluance like new, bigger roads, schools, busses. But all that takes a lot more money, which in the end is a huge gamble that they can actually draw a savior like Google, or Six Flags.
      It won’t work, but the commissioners won’t listen to a conservative.

  2. Not a bad piece of investigative journalism. It starts more as a critique of a newspaper that while the criticism is legitimate, it detracts from the story headline. It also begins with references to a former county administrator and one might think that this article was about him too, but no. It also would have been desirable to see a conviction for Tidwell, rather than simply an arrest and booking.

  3. I certainly don’t think it is fair to dwell on Mr. Tidwell’s criminal history, especially if he paid his debt to society,
    The real question is where are the checks and balances. This was a function of the previous Hernando County Aviation Authority that was disbanded earlier this year. Not one commissioner or the County Administrator approached the Authority with any concerns and then without any notice to the seven members of the Authority, they were disbanded. In fact, Commissioner Nicholson was at a regularly scheduled monthly meeting which was a Thursday afternoon and said it was his first meeting and was there to learn about the Authority and assist us in any way he could. The next Tuesday, without any conversation to the members, voted to disband the Authority. Remember, all of the members are appointed by the County Commission. I was a previous member of the Authority and to this day, there has not been one letter or correspondence to officially tell us it was disbanded or a thank you for all of the time and effort spent by the Authority members to try to make the Airport a success for the citizens of Hernando County. Remember, all of the members of the Aviation Authority are volunteers that take time out of their schedules to meet and study the issues and come back to the commission with recommendations.
    I hope a new set of commissioners in 2016 will see the light and reinstate the Aviation Authority.

    • The attention isn’t be placed on David Tidwell as much as it is being placed on Sossamon’s attempts to hide the facts from the public, very similarly to the airport authority hiding the facts that the number of operations didn’t meet minims for an FAA tower. Did you voluntarily disceive the public? Or was it just a matter of you placing your opinion above that of the pilots and the the commission? The people govern this county, not the government employees, or even the volunteers. And the people have a right to know Tidwell is a pedophile and the application to the FAA was a lie.

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