LABELLE, Fla. – Monkey-farm protesters lined up at the podium Thursday night during the City of Labelle’s commissioners meeting. The activists pointed the finger at City of Labelle mayor David Lyons, suggesting he knew all about the arrival of Hendry County’s monkey farms but did not tell residents.
“Mayor Lyons is on the executive board of Hendry County’s Economic Development Council,” local resident Dr. Madeleine Doran told commissioners. “The council brought in the monkey farms to Hendry County, so some of you may have been left in the dark, but some of you knew exactly what was going on.”
A city spokesman said Lyons was not able to speak with WINK News during the day before the meeting. The spokesman said the monkey farms are a Hendry County issue and not a Labelle issue, but WINK News found otherwise.
Monkey-breeder SoFlo Ag is one of the larger contributing members of the Labelle Downtown Revitalization Corporation. The non-profit corporation is run by Kim Gillman.
SoFLo Ag is also one of a handful of investors in the Hendry County Economic Development Committee. The committee reports it has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors in the past three years.
Kim Gillman’s husband, Gregg Gillman, is the president of the EDC which was responsible for vetting and soliciting monkey-breeding companies and ultimately bringing them to Hendry County. Gregg Gillman visited SoFlo Ag’s parent company in Chicago and publicly spoke of the county’s desire to do business with the company.
SoFlo Ag (a.k.a. PreLabs, Primera) is Hendry County’s newest monkey-breeding facility, and has plans to bring 3,200 more monkeys to its “Oak Creek Hammock” property located on the Hendry-Lee County line.
The company is currently at the center of an open-records lawsuit against Hendry County. Residents claim they were left in the dark about the arrival of the new monkey farm by Hendry County officials.