Sanborn Studios is dead, at least from a legal standpoint.
But that won't stop Sarasota County officials from planning to go after at least $350,000 from the now-defunct movie studio, where the founder, Ken Sanborn, failed to deliver on 117 jobs in return for the subsidies.
The county and Sanborn had been involved in a series of lawsuits and countersuits regarding the funds and failure to produce the jobs that spanned more than two years. Sarasota County Circuit Court Judge Rochelle Curley issued her final judgment in the case earlier this month.
County spokesperson Jason Bartolone, while saying he couldn't comment on the final ruling, in an e-mail wrote that the “county plans to institute collection proceedings to recoup the money.” The funds, if collected, would then go back in the general incentives fund.
The crux of the issue is Sanborn Studios, a Lakewood Ranch-based movie and TV production studio, was given $650,000 in September 2010. The contract, said Sarasota officials, called for the firm to add 117 jobs, at an average annual wage of $72,029, by September 2013. The firm failed to create the jobs and therefore breached its contract, the county alleged.
Sanborn, in several counter claims, says the county violated its ethics codes; disregarded its own audit reports; and deliberately undermined Sanborn Studio's business opportunities.
In an interview Friday, Sanborn's Tampa attorney David Boggs says that per the judgment, Sanborn Studios LLC is dissolved. Boggs, though, points out that the county, by the definition of the contract it wrote with Sanborn, can only go after the LLC for the money — not Sanborn personally.
“There is only one defendant in this lawsuit, and that's the LLC,” says Boggs.
The total $650,000 in incentives-for-jobs was the richest incentive for a single company in the history of the five-year program, which has since been revamped. The county no longer doles out funds before a company produces the jobs.
The Lakewood Ranch facility that some of the money for Sanborn Studios went toward is now Jumpin Fun Sports Trampoline Park.