BROOKINGS, S.D. — A South Dakota company that delayed plans to build a system to grow produce and seafood near Brookings was gifted land for the project from a lobbyist and former lawmaker, according to a newspaper report.

Former legislator and Board of Regents president Dean Krogman traded a Brookings home valued at about $175,000 for a 10-acre parcel that he then gave for $1 to the company behind the project, the Argus Leader reported . Global Aquaponics announced this month that it’s working on a new development timeline for the proposed multimillion-dollar venture after funding and contracting issues.

A former Global Aquaponics employee filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the company, calling it a “sham corporation,” the Argus Leader reported . Gregg Selberg is seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

Global Aquaponics company officials gathered last June at a ceremonial groundbreaking for the aquaponics system. Real estate agent Todd Voss told the newspaper that Global Aquaponics agreed to buy the land last year for $200,000, but never followed through.

With an ultimatum issued to the company, Voss said Krogman traded the duplex for the land. Krogman then gave the parcel to the aquaponics company, but the newspaper couldn’t establish how he’s tied to Global Aquaponics or why he helped.

Krogman and Global Aquaponics didn’t immediately return telephone messages requesting comment from The Associated Press. The company has said that the system would produce 2.5 million pounds of food a year and that construction would start in spring 2017.

Voss told the newspaper that he doesn’t know what the company has planned for the land, adding that neither he nor another real estate agent involved in the deal have invested in Global Aquaponics.

“I’m glad we didn’t tie ourselves to it in any way, shape or form,” Voss said. “Whatever they’re doing, I hope someone gets it figured out.”

The former chief operating officer for Global Aquaponics, who left the company about a year ago, told the Argus Leader that construction projects are often delayed. But Timothy Burns of Brookings said he was recently interviewed by the FBI about the Global Aquaponics project.

A spokesman for the FBI’s Minneapolis Division declined to comment to The AP. Former employee Selberg claims in his lawsuit that he was misled about Global Aquaponics’ fraudulent activities, which he says tarnished his reputation and “devastated” his economic position.

The lawsuit filed in Brookings County also names Burns and company majority owner Tobias Ritesman, both of whom didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment from the newspaper. Selberg didn’t immediately answer a telephone call from The AP.


Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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