The state of Florida is retaining outside counsel for an intended lawsuit against Digital Domain Media Group over $20 million from the state for a failed Port St. Lucie project in 2009.
According to an announcement from the Gov. Rick Scott’s office, the Department of Economic Opportunity is hiring outside lawyers for a suit that includes former Gov. Charlie Crist, the likely Democratic gubernatorial challenger. Crist was governor when the funding was granted.
“The (inspector general) investigation into the 2009 Digital Domain deal revealed that the usual state regulatory processes were circumvented to give Digital Domain tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds,” said General Counsel Peter Antonacci in a statement. “The collapse of the Digital Domain project, which was promoted by the previous administration, then left Florida taxpayers on the hook.”
Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel reported in March 2013 that there was nothing unlawful about the methods money was awarded to attract a company to Port St. Lucie — which had hoped to create 500 jobs.
Later, investigators found gaps in written documentation, contradictory recollections of events and inaccessible key witnesses in a study of how both legislators and then-Republican Crist, which suggested they sidestepped the usual Enterprise Florida review process to acquire state funding.
Visual effects company Digital Domain, operating in Port St. Lucie and West Palm Beach, filed for bankruptcy in September 2012. The firm had received $20 million in 2009 from Florida’s Quick Action Closing Fund. Florida’s contribution to Digital Domain was small compared to the tax incentives provided by local governments of Port St. Lucie and West Palm Beach.