of The Jacksonville Business Journal
By Will Robinson
Published February 13, 2019
In a corner of Heritage Landing's 600 idyllic acres, about 40
residents crowded the amenity center on Thursday to learn what became of the
neighborhood's pool lighting contract.
Exactly one month prior, the board awarded the $48,000
contract to a registered sex offender based largely on the advice of an alleged
fraudster, who claimed the company, New Creation Consulting Co., had a lightbulb
more than four times better than any known LED bulb.
That contract is now void, Heritage Landing District Counsel Wes Haber informed
the board of the neighborhood's Community Development District, a special
government entity. The board's February vote was conditional, and because NCC is
not a licensed contractor in Florida, it failed the contract's conditions.
Board chair Timothy Fleming, on multiple occasions, had to corral discussion
back to matters relating to the St. Johns County neighborhood's 1,100
homeowners, as some doggedly explored the minute developments that led to the
board's February vote. Others were happy to focus instead on the three bidders
that lost out on the pool lighting contract, the mushrooms growing on the tennis
court and a patchy hill in need of irrigation.
The board also elected a Heritage Landing resident to replace
Thomas Lance Clyce, the former homeowner's association president. Clyce resigned
before the initial light bulb contract vote, but some insist he was instrumental
in the board's decision.
Clyce has since been arrested and posted a $15,000 bond March 1 for unrelated
charges. The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office arrested him on charges of fraud,
grand theft and organized scheme to defraud.
THE FULL STORY
When the board of the Heritage Landing Community Development
District in St. Johns County voted last month to pay $48,000 for lightbulbs
around its pool — $30,000 of it up front — some in the neighborhood thought the
bulbs being offered were too good to be true.
Turns out, they might have been right — and the former homeowner association
president who was seen as championing the deal has been arrested on unrelated
On Valentine's Day, elected board members of the Heritage Landing CDD, a special
purpose government entity, voted 3-1 to give the pool lighting contract to New
Creation Consulting Co., a business owned by Michael Sawyer.
Bid materials Sawyer provided the board claimed his lights could emit 1,000
lumens per watt using components from Cree, a leading LED manufacturer. However,
a Cree press release in May 2018 touted its "industry-best efficacy record" at
just 231 lumens per watt.
Sawyer’s most ardent supporter, according to CDD board member Robert Och, was
Thomas Clyce, who goes by his middle name, Lance. Clyce previously served as the
president of the Heritage Landing homeowner's association and was a CDD board
member, but resigned before the vote.
Clyce's primary income, according to his 2017 financial disclosure form, came
from American Independent Lighting, a Tennessee company that claimed the same
business address as NCC and featured links to NCC's site from its webpage.
On March 1, Clyce was arrested on charges of fraud, grand theft and organized
scheme to defraud.
Clyce had used one of his companies, Jacksonville-based eLease International, to
illegally charge an upfront fee on a brokered loan, the St. Johns County
Sheriff's Office alleged in a warrant affidavit. Clyce then spent the roughly
$11,000 he received from a Maine company on credit card and mortgage fees,
shopping, entertainment, dining out, utilities and bank fees, according to
subpoenaed bank records, the sheriff’s office said.
This was not Clyce’s first brush with authorities.
In 2014, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation fined eLease $20,000 for
four violations between 2012 and 2013, accusing Clyce of charging upfront fees
for brokered loans for companies in Missouri, Arizona, Ghana and Jacksonville
between 2012 and 2013. The fine has been paid, according to an OFR spokesperson.
Another company, New York-based Lease-It Capital Corp. sued Clyce for the same
behavior in Duval County Circuit Court in 2014 and reached a settlement. A judge
levied a $2,500 fine against Clyce in 2016 for not paying the amount agreed to
in the settlement.
Sawyer, too, has faced criminal charges. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to four
counts of attempted sexual battery of a victim under 12, crimes that allegedly
took place in 1986. A Hillsborough County judge sentenced him to five years of
probation and registered him as a sex offender.
At Heritage Landing, Clyce helped tout Sawyer’s bulbs. At one point, he hand
carried a document to several board members that laid out claims about the
product, according to Sawyer's written response to staff questions and an email
from CDD staffer Todd Myhill reviewed by the Business Journal.The members
couldn’t copy the document, Sawyer said, because NCC was awaiting certification
from DesignLights Consortium, a nonprofit that gives electronics
industry-accepted qualifications, and Sawyer didn't want to risk his technology
falling into competitors' hands.
After a DLC compliance manager learned of the claims Sawyer was making, the
nonprofit made NCC remove all references to DLC from its online product
descriptions. If NCC had submitted a 1,000 lumen per watt product for review,
"it would certainly raise some eyebrows," DLC manager Brad Nemeth wrote in an
email reviewed by the Business Journal, because none of the DLC's
more-than-460,000 certified products claim more than 200 lumens per watt.
Representatives from NCC would not answer questions or pass them along to
Sawyer. Clyce said Wednesday he would have a response but did not provide one.
In the end, Heritage Landing won't be flipping the switch on the deal with NCC:
The February board vote was conditional on NCC's ability to comply with state
regulations, and it was discovered that because NCC is not a licensed general
contractor in Florida, it cannot pull the needed electrical permitting for the
work. Sawyer had claimed in his written responses that permitting would not be
needed for the project, then later claimed a subcontractor could pull the
"We're back to square one," said Och, who was the only member board to vote
against the contract.
The board can redo the entire solicitation process, table the project or not do
the project altogether. It meets again on March 14.