MELBOURNE, Florida - Brevard County Clerk of the Court Scott Ellis claimed on a radio show Monday that the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast knowingly received a post-dated confidentiality agreement related to its association with BlueWare, Inc.
Ellis believes that after a January 10, 2013 visit to the EDC by Clerk staff, a blank confidentiality agreement was provided to BlueWare president Rose Harr, which was subsequently signed and returned with back-dating. Ellis is embroiled in a battle with the EDC over a file that contains information regarding the EDC’s involvement in luring BlueWare to Melbourne last year.
Lynda Weatherman, president & CEO of the EDC said in response: “Brevard County Clerk of the Court Scott Ellis is wrong. His assertion that the non-disclosure agreement between BlueWare and the EDC was backdated was based on the time stamp from when copies of the original 2012 agreement, and a request for an extension, were faxed to EDC offices from England. In reality, the 2012 non-disclosure agreement was entered into more than a year ago, a fact the EDC would have clarified had Mr. Ellis asked. It appears the time stamp is what led to Mr. Ellis’ erroneous conclusion.”
The two documents in question can be seen at the end of this article.
Ellis noted in the interview that he understands that some documents in the file may contain “business strategy” that is not related to the Clerk’s office and could remain confidential. However, he also said that any information in the file that ties incentives to milestones should be open to the public.
He added he is considering legal action to see the BlueWare file at the EDC.
BlueWare has a controversial contract with the Clerk’s office to digitize court records. Ellis has claimed in the past that the $8.7 million contract is a “sham.”
District 3 County Commissioner Trudi Infantini said, “The BlueWare transaction has been questioned by Scott Ellis for well over a year. In spite of all his efforts to prevent this transaction from taking place it still went through. People in a position of authority have violated the public trust and withheld public records from Mr. Ellis. And even now that Scott has been elected back to Clerk of Courts he is still being stonewalled and records are being withheld.”
Previous Clerk Mitch Needelman, who Ellis defeated in a primary in August 2012, paid the BlueWare contract in full before leaving office by obtaining a loan from Hewlett Packard Financial Services. Ellis has said that this $6.1 million loan is illegal and that the Clerk’s office will not pay HP.
Following is a timeline of events related to Ellis and his communications with the EDC as well as communications with the EDC and Brevard Times.
1/10/2013 – Bart Carmichael of the Clerk’s office visit the EDC and request to see the “BlueWare file.” Ellis says they are told that the file cannot be released as it is subject to a confidentiality agreement, which sunsets on January 31, 2013.
1/11/2013 – The EDC receives two documents by FAX from BlueWare owner Rose Harr. One is a confidentiality request form signed by Harr and dated “January 31, 2012.” The second is a letter requesting a 12-month extension to the original confidentiality agreement. While there is no address associated with BlueWare on these documents, the FAX originated at “Grand Hotel Eastbourne.” This hotel is in East Sussex, England.
1/17/2013 – Carmichael formally requests the EDC/BlueWare “file” by email.
1/24/2013 – A legal opinion is provided to Ellis that says the documents in the BlueWare file are confidential.
1/24/2013 – When asked by Brevard Times whether they know that Harr lives in England, the EDC says they “we have no knowledge of the president’s private living arrangements”
2/1/2013 – Ellis and Carmichael return to the EDC to request the BlueWare file as the original 12-month non-disclosure agreement ended on January 31. The EDC informed Ellis that the file was under a 12-month confidentiality extension and then presented with the two documents that had been faxed from England.
BlueWare representatives and the remaining county commissioners did not respond to email requests for comment.