Sheriff Donald F Eslinger
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$203,878.33 DEBT

FORGIVEN BY SANFORD AIRPORT AUTHORITY


Congratulations to the City of Sanford Florida and the Sanford Airport Authority under the leadership of President, CEO, and Police Commander Larry Alvin Dale. While the down turn in the economy has harmed Seminole County Florida, the state of Florida and every other State in the USA, you have prospered. You have so much money that you have been able to forgive a debt owed to the Citizens of Sanford from two companies owned by Mr. James A. Watkins in the amount of $203,878.33. (1)

The City of Sanford Florida has not been required to lay off any employees, change any benefits, reduce any services to the taxpayers or alter any programs within the City due to the excessive amounts of money in their budget. Or has it?

How this gift, "forgiveness of debt", was offered to Southern Jet Center, L.L.C. and Avion Jet Center, L.L.C became a focus of our interest. As the chain of events unfolded more and more questions presented themselves. By the end of this article the answers to some questions would be revealed and more questions would be presented.

Before we get into this story a little background is needed. On August 11, 2011, Investigative Reporter George Spencer with WFTV Channel 9 News exposed that three companies which were operating out of the Sanford Airport were behind in their rental payments.(2, 2a) The three companies were identified as Southern Jet Center, Avion Jet Center and Millwork International. (3,4).

Records would reveal that as of April 8, 2011, that Southern Jet Center was $100,196.83 in arrears and that Avion Jet Center was $103,681.50 in arrears. (5,6) This resulted from approximately nine months of non payment of rent on various facilities at the Sanford Airport. Total due from these two companies owned by Mr. James A. Watkins was $203,878.33.

George Spencer questioned President/CEO Larry Alvin Dale about Mr. Dale’s relationship with the father of James A. Watkins and if this relationship played into the decision not to collect rent. Dale replied: "I’m not going to comment on any of that George." (2a)

So over the past several months we have followed this issue to see what had happened to this debt. The Florida Division of Corporation records revealed that:

1. Southern Jet Center, LLC was administratively dissolved for not filing its annual report on 9/25/09 . (3)

2. Avion Jet Center, LLC was administratively dissolved for not filing its annual report on 9/24/10 . (4)

It was further revealed that there was an active lien on Southern Jet Center, LLC by Bank of America Leasing & Capital , LLC in the amount of $758,151.98. (3a)

Now how exactly these two dissolved corporations were permitted to continue to do business at the Sanford Airport after they had been dissolved on 9/25/2009 & 9/24/2010 is a question that President/CEO Dale should be able to answer. But then considering that Mr. Dale permitted his own company, Seminole County Wildlife Association Inc. to operate in the same manner, it is no wonder why he would permit these two companies to do the same thing. But this is our opinion and I am sure that if asked, President/ CEO Dale , who is a public servant after all, would be happy to provide an answer, even if the answer is "no comment".

Since the records obtained by WFTV Investigative Reporter George Spencer covered the account activity up to April 8, 2011, we wanted to see what money was paid towards these two accounts since that date. Ms. Diane Crews, Vice President of Administration Sanford Airport Authority replied to our public records request and advised: (7)

"You have requested the aged accounts receivable for Southern Jet and Avion Jet Center, from April 2011 to present. Be advised that Southern Jet paid for the months of April, May, June, July, August and September 2011. Avion Jet Center paid for the months of April, May, June, July, August 2011."

Now here is where the clever word games begin. The description of the document requested was provided on the documents provided by George Spencer and as such “aged accounts receivable” is their description. What was missing from the records provided by Ms. Crews was any account activity which documented that money was paid towards the outstanding debt of $203,878.33. (8) What we would learn later is that there was another account identified as “Doubtful Receivable” in which the recording of this debt had been transferred to. (1)

Not being satisfied with the documents provided on 11/23/11, a second request was submitted to Ms. Crews for the production of public records which reflected any payments made to these accounts. (9) Instead of answering the question and providing the documents requested, Ms. Crews continued with her evasive response.(10) This only peeked our interest even more. Why the cat and mouse game over a record? What was being hidden, and why? So the document search continued.

Finally the October 4, 2011 Airport Authority Board Meeting minutes were posted online. (11) On page #6 the following was revealed:

"President Dale stated that Southern Executive Jet is in arrears; they are a month behind. However, they have been current for years."

Now unless their own records are mistaken, as of 4/28/2011 Southern Executive Jet was $100,196.83 in arrears and there was no record documenting that this debt had been paid. So the facts presented a problem with President Dales statements made to the Board of Directors. First , Southern Executive Jet was over nine months in the arrears and second, Southern Executive Jet had not been current for years. Excluded from this report was the debt of $103,681.50 that was owed by Avion Jet Center which was operating out of the same address with the same owner. Now the paper trail gets deeper not to mention muddier.

Finally, the November 1, 2011 SAA Board Member Meeting minutes were posted. For some reason the Airport Authority has a problem with timely posting the minutes online for the public to read. Of course the public can drive to the airport, go through all the headaches and read the posted minutes which are probably posted in plain view somewhere. We are sure that there is a good reason for the delay and await the posting of the December 2011 meeting.

So just what did the November 1, 2011 meeting reveal about this debt? To begin with on Page 4 it revealed: (12)

"G. Arrearage report – President Dale briefed the Board on the arrearages. There are two entities that are the biggest part of our arrearages; Avion Jet Center/Southern Executive and Millwork International."

The interesting fact of this statement is that President Dale verifies that Avion & Southern Executive are one entity. And as such the total amount of $203,878.33 was due from this one entity. So how is it that on October 4, 2011 , President Dale informs the Board that,

"Southern Executive Jet is in arrears; they are a month behind. However, they have been current for years." (11a)

And then on November 1, 2011 President Dale advises the Board that Avion/Southern Jet are one of the biggest entities in the arrears.

So which is it, are they only a month behind or are they in the arrears $203,878.33? The interesting facts missing from these Meeting Minutes is the dollar amounts that they are talking about. But then again why would the taxpayers need to know how much money had not been collected from these entities. After all the Citizens of Sanford have hired and elected trained, honest, professionals of the utmost integrity to run, manage, operate and administer the Sanford Airport Authority. Not to mention the highly educated and experienced members of the Board to watch over the Sanford Airport Authority and the financial interests of the taxpayers of the City of Sanford.

Well finally we were able to discover the truth. We reached what we hope is the end of the paper trail which brought us to the November 14, 2011 SPECIAL MEETING of the SAA Board. On page # 2 it was revealed: (1)

"President Dale stated Skyblue Aviation has purchased the training facility next to Jim Watkin’ place. Mr. Watkins’ entities have ceased to exist; approval of this agreement releases Mr. Watkins from past and future obligations. Counsel clarified that implicit in the motion is the termination of the previous lease with Mr. Watkins. President Dale stated that he sought direction from Counsel and Chairman Donihi on what needed to be brought to the Board. Staff and Counsel recommended approval of termination of the three leases with Mr. Watkins. Counsel clarified it is a forgiveness of debt, and the Authority will get the property back. President Dale stated the Authority would get the properties back without going through bankruptcy court or an IRS lien."

So here is the truth, but it gets even better. As you read on in the minutes it is revealed that :

"President Dale stated the terminations to the lease have been signed already; they need ratification from the Board. The terminations of the agreement do not change the terms of the lease agreement. Board Member Miller questioned what was the pressure to do this before bringing it to the Board. President Dale stated he feared Mr. Watkins would file bankruptcy or have an IRS lien against the property. Counsel stated that all three entities are defunct. Board Member Slattery questioned how much money has been forgiven. President Dale stated it is approximately $200,000.00 for all properties and some hangers; which was not budgeted for this year. Bryant Garrett stated it was entered under the "Doubtful Receivable" account for $200,000.00."

So now other questions present themselves:

1. Will the Sanford Airport Authority issue IRS Form 1099’s in reference to the forgiveness of debt to Mr. James A. Watkins or his businesses?

2. Will the Sanford Airport Authority contact Bank of America Leasing & Capital, LLC regarding their lien of $758,151.98?

3. Will the Sanford Airport Authority assist any and all businesses which are owed money by these companies?

4. Will the Sanford Airport Authority assist the Internal Revenue Service in reference to any debt owed the taxpayers of the USA?

5. Will the Sanford Airport Authority stop pretending that they control President/ CEO and Airport Police Commander Larry Alvin Dale and admit that Dale is in charge?

So here we have the facts concerning how a debt was forgiven. But more questions present themselves. Just how much authority has been given to these employees of the Sanford Airport Authority regarding the forgiveness of debt, which is the property of the Citizens of Sanford? Is this a normal action by these employees and Board members regarding debts? Has this been done in the past? Who else received this type of debt forgiveness? When did this “Doubtful Receivable” account come into being? What other accounts have been or are in this “Doubtful Receivable” account?

Maybe someday we will get an answer to these questions, but to be honest with you I doubt it. After all the paper trail is really long and if history repeats itself the information will not come out easy.

So to the Citizens of Sanford Florida, we again congratulate you on your ability not to have our current economic situation change how your City operates. You might want to get Mr. Dale to take on yet another job seeing as how he is the President, Chief Executive officer and Commander of the Airport Police. He could teach other municipalities how to give other peoples money away. But you will need to come up with a new title and of course you will need to give him yet another pay raise.

CLICK ON BELOW DOCUMENTS


1. November 14, 2011 Sanford Airport Authority “SPECIAL MEETING” pages 1-4
2. WFTV Channel 9 News story, by George Spencer
3. Division of Corporations - Southern Jet Center, LLC
3a. Judgment lien detail $758,151.98
4. Division of Corporations – Avion Jet Center, LLC
5. Avion Jet Center "Accounts Receivable Aged Invoice Report"
6. Southern Jet Center "Accounts Receivable Aged Invoice Report"
7. Email from Diane Crews 11/20/2011 2:18pm
8. Email to Diane Crews 11/20/2011 8:13 pm
9. Second public records request to Diane Crews 11/28/2011
10. Email from Diane Crews 12/15/2011
11. October 4, 2011 Sanford Airport Authority Meeting, pages 1, 6
12. November 1, 2011 Sanford Airport Authority Meeting, pages 1, 4
13. WFTV Channel 9 News story by Investigative Reporter George Spencer January 10, 2012

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"
-Edmund Burke