Daily Mail: "Scientology town Clearwater"

Discussion in 'Media' started by The Wrong Guy, Mar 31, 2015.

  1. I posted an excerpt from the original story and Mike's tweet in the Leah Remini thread:

    Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos says Scientology "shouldn't divide" families, and “ought to think twice about its policies on families."

    Saint Petersburg Blog: At Tiger Bay event, George Cretekos calls for Clearwater to get more respect

    Mitch Perry

    1 min ago

    * * * * * BEGIN EXCERPT * * * * *

    Being an elected official in Clearwater can be challenging when dealing with the fact that the city is the “spiritual home” for the Church of Scientology, the incredibly controversial organization which owns more than half a billion dollars of property in the city.

    The mayor was asked for comment regarding actress Leah Remini’s popular A&E docuseries “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.” The show featured former Scientologists who shared their stories of being involved with the church, such as being abused, being stripped of money or being separated from their families.

    Cretekos praised Clearwater citizens who are also members of the COS, saying they cared about the community as much as everybody else. Then he went further.

    “What we’ve seen in the Leah Remini story is one – the Church of Scientology has a terrible PR department. They are just awful. And they also need to understand that..churches support families. They shouldn’t divide them,” adding that the Church “ought to think twice about its policies on families.”

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  2. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater downtown blueprint ignores Church of Scientology, the 'elephant in the room' | Tampa Bay Times

    By Tracey McManus, Times Staff Writer, February 5, 2017


    The latest downtown revitalization plan unveiled this week calls for walkable green spaces and a bustling town square peppered with outdoor dining and retail shops to fill the vacant storefronts.

    But the 146-page blueprint the city paid consultants nearly $400,000 to write makes no mention of the Church of Scientology's future implications on downtown revival as the largest property owner and an international institution with a $917 million economic impact locally, according to one study.

    Since first arriving in Clearwater in 1975, the Church of Scientology has accumulated $250 million in real estate, occupying whole blocks of downtown and building its worldwide spiritual headquarters steps from City Hall.

    Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw wrote in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times the church "has no further plans to expand our campus downtown" but acknowledged a $4.25 million offer the church made last year to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for a vacant, grassy lot off Osceola Avenue.

    Still, none of the five City Council members said they believe Scientology's substantial presence is a relevant factor in strategizing for revitalization or recruiting private investment. If the city can reshape downtown's waterfront into a viable attraction, they say, the business community will follow.

    "We're trying to draw people downtown regardless of the elephant in the room," said council member Hoyt Hamilton. "If you put the right project down there, people are going to come no matter what."

    There is only a single sentence in the Imagine Clearwater master plan about Scientology's influence on downtown.

    In a section about the lack of retail, dining and events, consultants write: "The significant presence of the Church of Scientology members spending time downtown contributes to a sense of alienation among non-members."

    HR&A Advisors partner Cary Hirschstein said the city hired his firm to design a road map for bringing activity and visitors to the waterfront where there is currently an under-used park and parking lots.

    Because much of the bluff area is owned by the city, Hirschstein said the government has control over the image of the waterfront regardless of Scientology's pursuit of more real estate.

    Members of the church pitched ideas for enhancing downtown during town hall forums last year alongside non-members, and consultants met privately with church leaders. Hirschstein said he heard parishioners wanting the same vibrancy and activity as the rest of the public, making a conversation about a potential conflict of missions unnecessary.

    "Yes it's easy to find points where people may differ, but when you really look at the vast majority of the community's plan … the predominant idea of establishing this great civic center for downtown is something I found everybody on board with," Hirschstein said.

    Church officials agreed, stating to the Times they "want all of downtown to be developed to the benefit of the entire community. ... We are certain that with what we bring to the table in terms of economic impact and active participation, that the result will be a beautiful, thriving downtown for everyone."

    But Mayor George Cretekos acknowledged he has no idea how much more the church intends to grow or which parcels may end up being bought by Scientology instead of a restaurant or business.

    In 10 years as an elected official, he's had only two meetings with Scientology leader David Miscavige.

    "I don't know what the church wants," Cretekos said. "We keep hearing they want to help us bring in businesses.… The church was instrumental in bringing in Starbucks. But what else has the church brought in? They haven't brought in other retail businesses."

    In 2014, Urban Land Institute consultants hired to write a $125,000 analysis of downtown revival said city leaders and the Church of Scientology must communicate better for the district to thrive.

    ULI senior vice president Tom Eitler told the Times on Thursday that beyond pleasant interactions, that means the city needs solid data about the church's long-term strategy.

    But the more the church's role is mentioned in a city planning document, Eitler said "the more you scare off investors, that's the issue."

    "If the Church of Scientology was really interested in helping downtown, they'd say 'here is our downtown expansion plan, let's get that into the consultants' plan,' " Eitler said. "There's no sharing at all. They come to the meetings and pretend they are participating."

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  3. The Wrong Guy Member

    Welcome to your Scientology nightmare, people of Clearwater, Florida

    By Rod Keller, February 12, 2017


    On February 6, commissioners for the City of Clearwater, Florida approved the “Imagine Clearwater” plan for the downtown waterfront district. The plan calls for the demolition of City Hall and the Harborview convention center, reworking the waterfront into a concert and event venue. The 50-year-old Harborview has been an eyesore for many years and has failed the original purpose as a convention center. Officials claim that City Hall is unsuitable for its purpose, being too small to house all city departments and too expensive to maintain. Rather than rebuild on the same site officials are leaving the downtown area and building a new City Hall elsewhere.

    In 2013 a referendum passed to redevelop the entire site as the new home of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium which had experienced a boom in the aftermath of the movie Dolphin Tale, based on the story of Winter the dolphin who is on display at the aquarium. Scientology began working behind the scenes to oppose the plan and in 2015 the aquarium decided not to pursue that location. Scientology offered to purchase parts of the property in 2016 to develop additional hotel facilities, but that offer was not accepted.

    The plan concerns itself with the blocks East of Osceola Avenue, between Drew and Court Streets to the North and South.

    What the plan doesn’t really emphasize is that the parcel is surrounded by the Scientology buildings and properties that make up the “Flag Land Base,” the “spiritual mecca” of Scientology, which arrived in Clearwater surreptitiously in 1975.

    In this view, with north at top, the area that the city wants to redevelop is on the left, near the bridge, and you can see that it’s surrounded by Scientology’s key properties, including the Fort Harrison Hotel and Flag Building, as well as the Skyview, a private condominium project whose double penthouse is reportedly being developed for Tom Cruise so he can live right in the middle of Scientology’s mecca.

    Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw told the Tampa Bay Times this week that despite Scientology’s offer on the properties, Scientology has no plans to expand in downtown, which is provably untrue. Funds are being raised for L. Ron Hubbard Hall, a space to hold Scientology’s events and a museum to the founder.


    This is far from the first plan for the waterfront area. Before the aquarium plan was conceived, an abandoned 2004 plan for the area proposed building a monorail to connect downtown with the popular Clearwater Beach tourist areas. These plans fail because Scientology works behind the scenes to oppose them and because Scientology creates an unwelcoming area without shops and restaurants open to the public.

    If the Imagine Clearwater plan fails and the concert venue becomes the next white elephant for downtown Clearwater, there is only one party poised to bail them out and purchase more land along the waterfront – the Church of Scientology. The church’s plan is to oppose downtown revitalization, to continue expansion, and to cement Clearwater’s status as the first Scientology city.

    More at
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  4. RightOn Member

    Are Clearwater officials just now realizing that the cult totally owns that area, won't help to improve the area, contribute to the community and does not want any tourists around their mecca? NO social betterment offered what so ever. And so much of the cult properties are tax exempt.
    Helooooooo???? They are the ones who should be fighting for their tax exemption to be taken away. Yeah I know the cult pays a lot of taxes on the non exempt properties, but Clearwater should say enough is enough already.
    They should have known better when the cult first skulked into town under another name and bought the Ft. Harrison and noticed the cult buying up so many properties. Just not normal.
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  5. Quentinanon Member

    Clearwater is far from being a "scientology city".(Think Orwell's 1984) However, the criminal organization does occupy the downtown area, attributable largely to the U.S. government's subsidy in the form of 501(c)3 income tax exemption and the real estate purchasing entitlements they receive through the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Literally, the U.S. government has both directly and indirectly facilitated the scientology cancer in downtown Clearwater,
  6. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium land a key question mark for city

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times


    The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has held off on accepting an offer from the Church of Scientology to buy its vacant downtown lot for more than a year, giving city officials first dibs and time to decide if they'd like to buy the land.

    Mayor George Cretekos said officials were waiting to pull the trigger until they saw how consultants hired to design a downtown waterfront revitalization plan suggested the 1.4-acre lot across the street from City Hall should be used.

    But the plan unveiled Feb. 2 does not explicitly say the city should buy the parcel on the southwest corner of Pierce Street and Osceola Avenue or suggest a specific development. For underused sites on Osceola Avenue the city does not control, including the aquarium lot, consultants wrote the city should ensure "redevelopment uses meet the community's vision and productively contribute to downtown."

    Now, the ball is in the city's court to decide the fate of the piece of land that could have long-term impacts on downtown revitalization.

    Cretekos said he will ask the City Council to decide whether to buy the land at a special meeting Tuesday about implementation of the consultants' Imagine Clearwater plan. Although the city has discussed buying the lot to solicit the development of a hotel, retail complex or other public uses, Cretekos declined to say what he would advocate for next week.

    "I'm going to ask the question as to what ought to be done with that property," Cretekos said, "but I'm not sure I'll say now what my feelings are personally."

    Aquarium CEO David Yates said the nonprofit would like to complete the sale "within the next few months," but had been delaying to give the city first preference. If the city declines to buy the lot, "we'll sit down and look at other options," he said.

    The Church of Scientology, which has its international spiritual headquarters in downtown Clearwater, offered the aquarium $4.25 million for the lot in 2015.

    Church officials are still interested in buying the land adjacent to Scientology's 13-story Oak Cove religious retreat "to provide additional accommodations for our parishioners," spokesman Ben Shaw said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.

    In July, Scientology leader David Miscavige met one-on-one with the five City Council members to express the church's interest in the lot. It was the first time Miscavige ever held one-on-one meetings with elected officials on a single issue since he became the leader of the religion in 1987.

    The aquarium, which is across the Intracoastal Waterway on Island Estates, bought the downtown parcels in 2012 for $2.1 million as part of its former plan to relocate to the current City Hall property.

    Voters in 2013 approved a referendum allowing the aquarium to pursue a long-term lease with the city to build a three-story venue for its marine rehabilitation and exhibitions.

    But aquarium officials decided in 2015 to stay put and renovate the Island Estates facility instead. The aquarium began its $50 million expansion in September, which will include a 400-space garage; three times the educational space; 103,000 more square feet in overall guest space; and a five-pool dolphin habitat with underwater viewing.

    Yates said the profits from the sale of the downtown lot will go toward the ongoing fundraising for the expansion.

    But there is not a clear consensus on whether the city should take control of the lot.

    City Council member Bob Cundiff said he doesn't think the property is critical to the city because the Imagine Clearwater consultants did not include specific direction in their recommendations.

    "If the church bought it, it would be okay with me," Cundiff said. "Whatever they would put there would not detract from the Bluff."

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  7. The Wrong Guy Member

    Editorial: Clearwater should buy downtown land for redevelopment | Tampa Bay Times


    The Clearwater City Council will have a pivotal discussion this afternoon that could help determine the future of a downtown that has been waiting decades for a revival. Council members should agree to buy a prime piece of land adjacent to City Hall with an eye toward future redevelopment that could fit nicely with the latest revitalization plan. Or they can take a pass, let the Church of Scientology buy the land and allow the church to tighten its choke hold on the city.

    It's important to take the long view. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium bought the 1.4-acre lot in 2012 as part of an ambitious plan to build a new home along the downtown bluff that would have been the long-sought signature attraction for a rejuvenated downtown. Voters demonstrated their faith by approving a referendum in 2013 to allow a long-term lease of the adjacent City Hall site to the aquarium. But the aquarium could not raise the millions it needed, abandoned the idea in 2015 and is ready to sell the vacant lot it no longer needs.

    The aquarium, which is renovating its facilities on Island Estates, has done its part. It has given the city time to complete a new blueprint for downtown. For more than a year, it has held off the Church of Scientology, which has offered the aquarium more than $4 million for the property. Mayor George Cretekos said Monday he is inclined to have the city buy the property, and the other council members also should step up.

    This piece of property, combined with the City Hall property across the street, is just as important to the future of Clearwater's downtown as it was when it was expected to be the included in the footprint for the aquarium's new home. The new downtown master plan envisions lots of green space, walking and biking trails, a public plaza and a reinvigorated Coachman's Park along the waterfront. That makes this vacant lot and the City Hall property even more attractive as a site for the new development Clearwater has craved for decades.

    Skeptics of the purchase point out that the city's consultants did not propose a specific use for the property and made no mention of the impact of Scientology's long shadow over downtown. Of course they didn't. No consultant wants to poke the giant, particularly one that pokes back. An earlier downtown analysis by the Urban Land Institute recommended the city work with the Church of Scientology, but there is nothing to suggest the church has the city's best interests at heart. In fact, it worked behind the scenes to undermine the aquarium project. If the church wanted to be a genuine collaborator, they would be more open about their long-range plans and less confrontational.

    This vacant parcel cannot be viewed in isolation. It is in Clearwater's long-term interest to move City Hall somewhere else and maximize the use of that property, which also includes a parking lot. It would be even more attractive to developers if the land could be packaged with the aquarium-owned lot that is at issue today. If the Church of Scientology buys the lot, the City Hall property will be a bit less enticing to other buyers who could help transform downtown. And guess what neighboring property owner would want to buy it when the city finally decides to sell.

    The Church of Scientology is already the largest taxpayer in downtown Clearwater and owns property in the city worth more than $500 million. It says it wants the aquarium's vacant parcel to build more accommodations for its members, but that is not the best use of this land for the long-term vision of downtown Clearwater. The City Council should agree to buy the property and be prepared to resell it separately or package it with the City Hall property for redevelopment.

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  8. Mystery property buyer in downtown Clearwater brings questions about Scientology's involvement.

    Tampa Bay Times: Mystery property buyer in downtown Clearwater brings questions about Scientology's involvement

    * * * * * BEGIN EXCERPT * * * * *

    Mystery property buyer in downtown Clearwater brings questions about Scientology's involvement

    Tracey McManus, Times Staff Writer

    Tuesday, February 21, 2017 11:27am

    CLEARWATER — An Ybor City real estate broker has been buying up downtown property on behalf of a buyer working very hard to remain secret.

    This month, a newly formed LLC called 601 Cleveland registered to Fred Edmister paid $13 million for the city's largest office tower, the nine-story, all-glass Atrium building, in the center of downtown.

    On Jan. 13, a business called 715 Laura LLC also registered to Edmister bought an auto garage at that street address, less than a block from the Atrium, for $1.7 million, according to property records.

    And on Nov. 18, Edmister registered a business with the state called 700 Cleveland Street LLC, although the Clearwater Mortgage building at that address, directly behind the auto garage, has not been sold, according to public records.

    It's not an uncommon arrangement for real estate investors to buy property through a broker to keep their name out of public records. But with the anonymity of the owner, and the potential acquisition of three properties within a block of each other, speculation has turned again to the default assumption whenever downtown property changes hands — that the Church of Scientology is somehow involved.

    "I've heard that people associated with the church have bought the (Atrium) property, but I do not know for sure," Mayor George Cretekos said.

    Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw did not respond to requests for comment this week. But he told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this month the church "has no further plans to expand our campus downtown."

    That statement hasn't prevented downtown watchers from speculating that the church is secretly working to expand its real estate footprint in the city.

    "Everybody was saying it was Scientology," said Tom O'Brien, who has rented space in the Atrium for his Tiger Real Estate Opportunity Fund for 12 years but does not know who now owns his building.

    Since first arriving in Clearwater in 1975, the Church of Scientology has accumulated more than $260 million in real estate, occupying whole blocks of downtown and building its worldwide spiritual headquarters steps from City Hall.

    The church is also pursuing the 1.4 acre lot adjacent to City Hall and offered the owner, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, $4.25 million for it in 2014.

    Edmister did not respond to repeated calls for comment or a letter hand-delivered to his National Realty Commercial's office.

    But he has a history of representing confidential buyers in large transactions. In 2006 he bought five properties for $28,165, put them in two land trusts whose beneficiaries were secret and then flipped them to the Hillsborough County School district for a 340 percent markup.

    On Tuesday, Clearwater Mortgage owner Scott Chinchar told a Times reporter to leave when asked about the sale of his building. A man who identified himself as the owner of All Around Repairs, which sold on Jan. 13 to Edmister's LLC, also told a Times reporter to leave when asked if the Church of Scientology was the true buyer of his building.

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  9. The Wrong Guy Member

    City to buy vacant Clearwater Marine Aquarium lot eyed by Church of Scientology | Tampa Bay Times


    The City Council is moving forward with buying a vacant 1.4 acre lot across the street from City Hall owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

    City Attorney Pam Akin said Tuesday that a purchase contract will be presented for approval at the regular meeting March 16.

    The purchase will coincide with city plans to sell the current City Hall site at 112 S Osceola Ave. to a developer for residences, retail or other uses. A 10-year, potentially $55 million downtown revitalization plan unveiled this month encouraged redevelopment of underused parcels along Osceola Avenue to help stimulate the waterfront and promote economic development.

    The Church of Scientology offered the aquarium $4.25 million for the lot at the southwest corner of Osceola Avenue and Pierce Street in 2014, but CEO David Yates said the aquarium was holding out to give city officials time to decide if they'd like to buy the land.

    Earlier this month, Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw told the Tampa Bay Times the Church wanted the lot, which is adjacent to Scientology's 13-story Oak Cove religious retreat, "to provide additional accommodations for our parishioners."

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  10. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology leader to visit Clearwater officials a week before vote on property purchase | Tampa Bay Times


    In three decades as the Church of Scientology's leader, only one time has David Miscavige ever held formal meetings with all five City Council members.

    It was in July, to emphasize the church's interest in a 1.4-acre vacant lot across the street from City Hall that is owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

    Now, in advance of the City Council's March 16 vote to buy the property, Miscavige has called for meetings with elected officials for a second time.

    Miscavige is scheduled to meet with council members individually on Tuesday and Wednesday at the church's Fort Harrison Hotel, and City Manager Bill Horne said he will be present for each talk. Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw did not return an email or phone call requesting comment, but Horne said he expects the focus to be on the aquarium property and the church's retail strategy for downtown.

    "Miscavige has really taken the lead in this whole retail recruitment piece," Horne said. "He told the council the last time he saw them he was working on some things and he would get back to them once he was able to have something more definitive. This is a follow-through. But the timing is pretty obvious why it's coming now."

    The church in 2015 offered the aquarium $4.25 million for the lot at the corner of Osceola Avenue and Pierce Street, which is adjacent to the church's 13-story Oak Cove religious retreat and across the street from its Fort Harrison Hotel.


    City Council member Hoyt Hamilton said ... he's been given no information about Miscavige's retail strategy and he is not clear about the church's plan for its future growth.

    "We need to try to work together, but working together means being open and transparent in what we do," Hamilton said. "Everybody requires the government to do that. When we try to do something and it's not open and transparent, we get absolutely lit up over that. Whereas the church doesn't always operate that way and historically hasn't operated that way. If this is going to be a partnership, they have to be open."

    More at

    David Miscavige to strongarm Clearwater city council members?

    By Tony Ortega, March 2, 2017


    Tracey McManus has some fascinating news this morning at the Tampa Bay Times about Scientology leader David Miscavige making some last-minute moves in an apparent effort to head off a $4.25 million sale for a 1.4-acre parcel in downtown Clearwater that the city intends to buy.

    The parcel is owned by an aquarium company that had previously intended to expand its operation to the plot, which lies right across the street from Scientology’s holiest location, the Fort Harrison Hotel, which is part of Scientology’s “Flag Land Base,” a collection of buildings in the Clearwater downtown. The city wanted the aquarium expansion to help revive a dead downtown that features little besides the church and its zombie-like Sea Org troops. But Miscavige, behind the scenes, killed the aquarium deal because he wants the parcel for the church. Now the aquarium owners plan to sell to the city for its own development of the parcel.

    It’s a transaction that just needs a city council vote to approve, but ahead of that vote, on Tuesday and Wednesday, David Miscavige, in a surprise move, wants to meet individually with the council members to talk to them about the deal.

    Hey, that’s not super creepy or anything.

    The aquarium told McManus that the sale is a done deal. But will Miscavige be able to talk the city out of it? Do these city council members have pets?

    We can’t wait to hear what sort of rap Miscavige lays on these people.

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  11. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology plans control of downtown Clearwater for retail makeover

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times


    The Church of Scientology is maneuvering to control all downtown real estate to create a master retail district that will operate under its management and oversight.

    The plan, according to two city officials briefed by Scientology leader David Miscavige, requires all property from Osceola to Myrtle avenues between Drew and Pierce streets being bought by the church, its parishioners or others willing to participate.

    The concept involves recruiting a few major, national retailers to anchor the district and filling the grid with handpicked businesses all at one time, similar to how an outdoor mall is established, said Community Redevelopment Agency Director Seth Taylor and City Manager Bill Horne, who in October were shown renderings of the retail strategy by Miscavige but not given copies.

    The plan does not require approval from elected officials or voters, but is a vision the church has already started implementing with the help of consultants and an aggressive acquisition of downtown property.

    Along with the more than $260 million in property Scientology has acquired under its name since arriving in Clearwater in 1975, and later establishing its international spiritual headquarters downtown, the church has been buying parcels in the central core for the past several months through anonymous LLCs.

    Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw did not respond to an email or phone call requesting comment.

    But since Jan. 31, businesses registered to Scientology attorney Robert Potter bought two blocks of vacant lots along Myrtle Avenue between Drew and Laura streets for $9 million; the Sage venue at 22 N Fort Harrison Ave. for $600,000; and the Trickels Jewelers building at 714 Cleveland St. for $1.9 million, according to property records.

    Through companies registered to Ybor City real estate broker Fred Edmister, the church bought the city's landmark, all-glass office tower at 601 Cleveland St. for $13 million on Feb. 1 and a nearby auto garage on Laura Street for $1.7 million on Jan. 13, Taylor confirmed. Edmister also registered 700 Cleveland Street LLC in November to buy the Clearwater Mortgage building at that address.

    Alabama-based Retail Strategies Executive Vice President Wade Robinett said Scientology hired his firm three years ago "to reach out to retailers," but he declined to comment on specifics of the plan. The church also hired Tampa-based Gensler architects to design a facade overhaul for property along Cleveland Street.

    City Manager Bill Horne said he expects Miscavige to make a public presentation in the near future. He said he believes the plan has stayed relatively secret so the church could acquire real estate quietly and avoid property owners inflating the prices.

    For two decades, the city has tried to revitalize downtown by hiring consultants, designing redevelopment plans and marketing to businesses. Despite its proximity to the Intracoastal Waterway and success of the waterfront Coachman Park as an event venue, Clearwater's downtown has trailed behind Tampa and St. Petersburg.

    The city last month approved a 10-year, $55 million plan for reshaping the waterfront to bring more visitors to a new garden, improved concert venue and walkable nature trails.

    Horne said he is willing to allow Scientology officials to take the lead on recruiting businesses in hopes they can find the solution that has eluded city government.

    "We have to try something," Horne said. "We haven't been successful on our own. The private sector has not been successful. Maybe we're in a situation where the only way we get that investment is if the church brings it."

    But Taylor, whom the city hired in July as the community redevelopment agency director to recruit businesses and help revive downtown, said he believes a more grassroots and market-driven approach would be more realistic.

    He said if the city can bring a flagship business as an anchor, like a craft brewery, local businesses will follow.

    "The retail strategy they are proposing is frankly not feasible," Taylor said. "I don't think it should be the business of the Church of Scientology to take the lead on this. The reason being the city is charged with representing the interests and desires of the whole city. The church does not have that mandate. And that could potentially impact what this retail environment looks like and how it is shaped. Bottom line is the CRA is the entity that should be taking the lead on retail recruitment efforts."

    City Council member Hoyt Hamilton and Vice Mayor Bill Jonson on Friday said they knew the church was working on a retail strategy but had no idea about the scope or details.

    "It's disconcerting," Jonson said about the surprise, declining to offer his opinion until he hears details from Horne or Miscavige. "It may be a wonderful plan, but it's just not a partnership. Maybe it is a partnership. I just haven't heard anything, so I don't know."

    Zachary Thorn, vice president of government affairs for the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he was unaware the church's strategy was to take complete control of downtown.

    "The chamber would appreciate any partner that would make the downtown viable, but communication is key in any relationship and the more forthcoming they are in general about their business plans, the more the community can work with them," Thorn said.

    In only the second time he has ever arranged formal meetings with all elected officials, Miscavige is scheduled to meet individually with each City Council member on March 14 at the Fort Harrison Hotel to discuss the retail strategy and a 1.4-acre vacant parcel the city is expected to vote on March 16 to buy that is owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and desired by the church.

    After initially accepting a one-on-one meeting when it was put on her calendar last week, City Council member Doreen Caudell on Monday said she will not meet with Miscavige privately and insisted he make a presentation at the March 16 City Council meeting.

    "These individual meetings, requested exclusively by Scientology, ignore transparency and inappropriately snub our great community and our citizens from commenting on Scientology's retail plan," Caudell wrote in an email to Horne.

    Horne said it will require a leap of faith to trust the church is committed to building a downtown geared toward the general public, not just its parishioners. He said he was told the church does not intend to own the properties forever, but to sell the real estate back into the private sector once a viable economic marketplace is established.

    After consultants hired by the city in 2014 said the city and Scientology should work closer together, Horne said Miscavige became involved in the church's retail strategy.

    Although 75 percent of the church's current real estate holdings in Clearwater are tax exempt for religious purposes, Horne said the properties involved in the retail district would remain on the tax rolls.

    Shaw told the Times last month the church "has no further plans to expand our campus downtown," but Taylor said Shaw, in a private conversation, clarified he was referring only to the religious campus.

    Horne said he does not know specific businesses the church is recruiting but said the concept is geared toward the high-end and compared it to Tampa's International Plaza.

    Jeff Green, a national retail consultant, said he's never heard of a private entity controlling a business district outside of the Vatican but acknowledged there is a stigma that would have to be overcome by consumers.

    He said most distressed downtowns with high vacancies like Clearwater respond better to restaurants and local businesses for revitalization. The market for high end retail and chain stores thrives in high traffic areas like U.S. 19 rather than neighborhood downtowns.

    "It makes sense in terms of being able to control more of downtown, but the question I have comes down to retail feasibility," Green said.

    Horne said transparency by the church would help alleviate some of the suspicion the public has about Scientology's intentions and that a public presentation is needed.

    "Are they going to follow through with what they say is in this opportunity? I can only go on what they say,'' he said. "In some point in the future we will know if they were truthful."

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  12. tippytoe Member

  13. Quentinanon Member

    David Miscavige is extremely paranoid, so he will not appear in a public forum and put his statements on the public record.

    "After initially accepting a one-on-one meeting when it was put on her calendar last week, City Council member Doreen Caudell on Monday said she will not meet with Miscavige privately and insisted he make a presentation at the March 16 City Council meeting.
    "These individual meetings, requested exclusively by Scientology, ignore transparency and inappropriately snub our great community and our citizens from commenting on Scientology's retail plan," Caudell wrote in an email to Horne."

    "Although 75 percent of the church's current real estate holdings in Clearwater are tax exempt for religious purposes, Horne said the properties involved in the retail district would remain on the tax rolls.
    Shaw told the Times last month the church "has no further plans to expand our campus downtown," but Taylor said Shaw, in a private conversation, clarified he was referring only to the religious campus."

    And there is part of the problem. The others are the plethora of security cameras on cult buildings, the robot-like staff walking around, and the quirky behaviour of scilons in general. Who wants to be in that sort of environment? Only scientologists.
    And Miscavige wants to hand pick which businesses locate in downtown Clearwater. Will the City Council cave-in to that lunacy?
  14. My favorite part -

    "The retail strategy they are proposing is frankly not feasible," [Community Redevelopment Agency Director Seth] Taylor said. "I don't think it should be the business of the Church of Scientology to take the lead on this. The reason being the city is charged with representing the interests and desires of the whole city. The church does not have that mandate. And that could potentially impact what this retail environment looks like and how it is shaped. Bottom line is the CRA is the entity that should be taking the lead on retail recruitment efforts."

    That's a pretty good point he makes, especially since the CRA is a city entity.

  15. Caveat Emptor, Sad Investment: Scientology Town master retail in a district overwhelmingly dominated by Scientology staffers and Sea-Org with very little if any expendable cash. (Annual staff income under $4,000.oo)

    (50 bux a week, all they need is a Family Dollar store in downtown Clearwater. Hollar!)

    People avoid downtown as it is because of the creepy cult presence everywhere, not a comfortable shopping experience unless they offer something personality tests.

    I remember when the ummm ahhh <Ahem!> 'United Churches of Florida' was looking for Clearwater real estate in the 70's. Oh yah it was a scam run by a fugitive conman named L. Ron Hubbard using a phony front group name and hiding its Scientology connections before purchasing the Fort Harrison Hotel and ruining the community. LRH's deception led to his massive land base and now they want more while still trying to hide its Scientology connections.

    Scientology Proposal: Laughable! GTFO! Do Not Want!

    • Like Like x 2
  16. I think this may be the start, or continuation, of a more fundamental long-term strategy.

    If I recall correctly, Tony Ortega proposed the theory of the Church of Scientology falling back and making a last stand in Clearwater. This makes some sense politically.

    A large number of Scientology voters in one city would have an significant political influence. If the local Mayor, Congressman, etc. were not completely "owned" by the Church of Scientology, they would likely not cross the COS, and would listen to and be influenced by it. (We already saw this in fomer Congressman David Jolly.) Such power would only be enhanced by the COS essentially owning the downtown commercial district. I believe the Church of Scientoligy's model may be the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) in Salt Lake City.
  17. Zak McKracken Member

    They intend to create the first permanent settlement in Clearwater? Build everything up from scratch?

    The Great Salt Lake (still nominally part of Mexico) was a place they could go to escape the infernal meddlings of the US govmint and lynch mobs like the one that got their Dear Leader. That didn't last too long, and Mormon resistance to further and interminal meddling went on for a long time after, but they had at least SOME legitimate grounds for calling it "their" land. Aside from that grant deed passed on from Jesus to Moroni.

    From what I've seen, Mormons make okay neighbors in most places they settle. More annoying than satanists, less annoying than 7DA. About the same as baptists.

    Will Scientology follow through with this model, and be "good neighbors" to Clearwater?
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  18. The Wrong Guy Member

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  19. Clearwater city officials to hand economic development over to Church of Scientology.

    Tampa Bay Times: Trigaux: Setbacks at Enterprise Florida, in downtown Clearwater deliver one-two punch to job recruiting

    Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

    * * * * * BEGIN EXCERPT * * * * *

    Florida business recruiting: We have a problem.

    Make that two.


    A more unusual complication is emerging in Clearwater, where city officials are about to surrender responsibility for economic development and business recruitment in much of the city's downtown. As reported in the Tampa Bay Times, the Church of Scientology has a plan to control a large swath of downtown real estate and create a master retail district that will operate under its management and oversight.

    City manager Bill Horne tells the Times he's willing to let Scientology officials take the lead on recruiting businesses in the hope they can find the economic solution that has eluded the city government.

    "We have to try something," Horne said. "We haven't been successful on our own."

    That much is true, though there are pockets of successful technology businesses in the city's downtown. What's left unsaid, of course, is whether the years of slack response to downtown business recruiting is largely due to the dominating presence of Scientology.

    The Tallahassee and Clearwater setbacks this week are a one-two gut punch to the traditional approach of recruiting companies and their jobs to the state and the Tampa Bay metro area.


    While smaller in geographic scale, the decision by Clearwater city officials to hand economic development over to the Church of Scientology is perhaps more stunning.

    In the larger world of business recruiting,the Tampa Bay metropolitan area is viewed as one region anchored by three larger if unequal cities: Tampa, the emerging business center; St. Petersburg, the arts and entertainment hub; and downtown Clearwater, an uninspired spot for many heading to vibrant Clearwater Beach. Now one of the three city legs of that economic stool is abdicating control of downtown development to a controversial church.

    Scientology may attract businesses. But as the plan stipulates, business will be subject to church oversight. And that will be viewed with suspicion in the larger economy.

    Large corporations that analyze the dynamics of metro areas where they may want to expand will look at what's happening in downtown Clearwater and pause. It may make little difference if those companies are looking to grow in Tampa or St. Petersburg, or Hillsborough, Pasco or other parts of Pinellas counties. To companies, Tampa Bay is one metro area with one workforce.

    What Clearwater's' government is doing — empowering an already influential church to become an economic decision maker for the city core — may send ripples across Tampa Bay's broader aim to attract new and better jobs to this region.

    Contact Robert Trigaux at Follow @venturetampabay.

    * * * * * END EXCERPT * * * * *
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  20. A Clearwater City official is on camera in this report saying that relinquishing control of downtown to Scientology is one thing he absolutely does not want to do.
  21. Tampa Bay Times - Editorial: Scientology should discuss Clearwater plans in public

    * * * * * BEGIN EXCERPT * * * * *

    The Church of Scientology appears determined to complete the hostile takeover of downtown Clearwater it launched four decades ago. It's latest effort has all of the familiar characteristics: Disguised property purchases, secret meetings and intimidation.
    Mayor George Cretekos and other City Council members should stand up to these strong-arm tactics, force the discussions into the open and not allow downtown to become a wholly owned Scientology subsidiary.

    It turns out City Manager Bill Horne and Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor have known for months that Scientology is intent on gaining control of every bit of downtown. The Times' Tracey McManus reported this week they were shown renderings by Scientology leader David Miscavige in October and later briefed about the church's concept to control every parcel and every aspect of a new retail district. While the city officials were not given copies, those discussions should have been promptly disclosed. The best antiseptic for fighting a spreading infection is openness.

    Yet Miscavige will be in Clearwater next week to meet privately with each City Council member at Scientology's Fort Harrison Hotel and brief them on the grand plan. These conversations should not be secret, and at least one City Council member has had second thoughts and declined the invitation. Anyone bidding to become downtown's master developer should be willing to meet with city officials in public at City Hall, so residents and property owners can hear the pitch and decide for themselves whether this vision is best for their city.

    There is nothing to suggest Scientology is interested in being a collaborative partner with Clearwater's elected officials, or that it has the city's best interests in mind. Clearwater residents have long memories about how Scientology secretly swooped in and became the largest downtown property owner, with parcels now worth more than $260 million. More recently, Scientology opposed the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's ambitious plan to move downtown — an effort voters approved but that ultimately did not work out. The aquarium has agreed to sell a key downtown parcel it no longer needs to the city, and the City Council is scheduled to vote on that purchase March 16. That property is coveted by the church, so no wonder Miscavige is waltzing in with big ideas and probably a suitcase of cash to derail the deal and buy the parcel.

    Clearwater has spent decades trying to revive its downtown, which has suffered in part because of Scientology's suffocating presence. Now it finally has a clear direction. The Urban Land Institute offered its suggestions. The city has just approved a $55 million plan to revamp the waterfront and improve a concert venue. The downtown Capitol Theatre operated by Ruth Eckerd Hall is a lovely concert venue. The modern city library on the bluff is a great public asset, new apartments are being built and Clearwater and Pinellas County are discussing the possibility of a joining together to build a new government center. That would free up the city hall site to package with the adjacent aquarium parcel for development along the downtown bluff.

    Scientology doesn't want that. It doesn't want to be the largest downtown property owner. It wants to be the only owner or to control the owners. It wants to unilaterally decide how to redevelop and determine which retailers to invite. That's not a partnership. That's a monopoly.

    It's been a long, difficult road for Clearwater since the Church of Scientology showed up unannounced and unwelcome in 1975. But the city's has plenty of potential for a brighter future downtown, and it should not give up now. Clearwater officials should demand Miscavige meet in public and reveal his plans. And they should tell him they are only interested in collaboration, not an occupation by Scientology.

    * * * * * END EXCERPT * * * * *
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  22. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology's Florida kingdom like something out of a Stephen King novel

    Since arriving in Clearwater, Florida in 1975, the “Church” has acquired more than $260 million in property.

    By Rosie DiManno, The Toronto Star

    Uniformity of look: Navy trousers, navy vest, white shirt. Ties for men, neck kerchiefs for women. Could pass for an airline crew.

    Uniformity of expression: Engaging smiles.

    Uniformity of thought: The journey to enlightenment. Also, something about being descended from extraterrestrials brought to Planet Earth by an intergalactic despot 75 million years ago. Although the core credo — the gospels according to the Church of Scientology — are revealed only to members who have reached the highest level of purification and “auditing,” doctrine counselling that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The loftiest of echelons purportedly achieved by Tom Cruise.

    Is it a religion? Is it a cult? Is it the faith equivalent of a Ponzi scheme?

    In this down-on-its-heels resort town, one thing is for sure: It’s an occupying power and avaricious property-gobbling enterprise.

    Since arriving in Clearwater in 1975 — founder L. Ron Hubbard, a sci-fi shlock writer, had earlier been commanding his made-up religion from four ships wandering the oceans, forbidden to dock at port after port — and establishing here its international spiritual headquarters, the “Church” has acquired more than $260 million in property, essentially commandeering the city’s downtown area as a nonincorporated Dianetics township.

    Its real estate kingdom, most of which is tax exempt for religious purposes, includes the signature Fort Harrison, a hotel turned into housing for visiting Scientology adherents; the Super Powers Building (church HQ, formally called The Flag Building, Clearwater’s largest structure with a construction cost of $50 million (U.S.) when it opened four years ago); Clearwater Academy, an exclusive school for the children of Sea Org (top tier, see naval fleet original) members; The Coachman (largest Scientology library in the world, the city’s first highrise building, built in 1916); the former Clearwater Bank Building (administration offices and staff dining); Station Square (146-unit condominium); a drug rehab facility (actually a 10-minute drive from downtown, and drug-rehab means not professionally recognized counselling, mostly just mind-numbing immersion in Hubbard doorstoppers); and a colonnaded information centre where those aforementioned books and DVDs are stacked tall on tables.

    Scientology-ville, the town has been called, inhabited as it is by some 2,500 church employees — the men and women identified by their uniform, few other non-aligned civvies visible on the downtown streets — and, the church claims, 10,000 parishioners who permanently reside locally.

    Creepy, like stepping into a Stephen King novel or an Attack of the Zombies movie. Everybody so damned pleasant, until an interloper tries entering the flagship “Church” and is firmly led away by a security guard, deposited on the street alongside a gaggle of anti-Scientology demonstrators. (Who turned out to be Jesus-freak proselytizers, so not that different.) The church, topped with a pseudo-cross, and sitting opposite the road from the overwhelmed Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church, is where members go for advanced courses, climbing the rungs of Scientology orthodoxy — a how-to for controlling thought processes in that (alleged) part of the brain where, adherents profess, emotional problems and psychosomatic illnesses are born. Junk science and quackery, say the guys in the white coats, with the degree parchments on their office walls.

    (Scientology is aggressively anti-pharmaceuticals, including antidepressants. No painkillers during labour and childbirth should be borne in silence.)

    Now, most of this basic info comes via a crash course in Scientology this week, meandering around the church’s properties and watching instructional videos at the welcome centre as a potential convert.

    An alien in Emerald City, me. Or the Scientology version of Vatican City, in terms of bricks and mortar holdings, and arguably even more secretive in its operations than the Holy See. But putting its photo-op celebrity devotees front and centre. Media-savvy.

    And, channelling the spirit of its money-grubbing founder — “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion,” he reportedly said — the church wants more, more, more. Because it can well afford more, more, more.

    As the Tampa Bay Times reported this week, the church, which already owns 22 buildings downtown, has been manoeuvring to buy huge swathes of Clearwater real estate, pretty much the entire inner city, with the aim of creating a “master retail district” that would operate under Scientology management and oversight — a cross between Scientology theme park and commercial empire, anchored by the usual high-end shops.

    David Miscavige, Scientology leader since Hubbard bit the bullet in 1986 — at which point he was being investigated for violation of federal tax laws and other statutes (his wife among 11 senior Scientologists earlier convicted of conspiracy over covert infiltration of government agencies and . . . oh hell, too much sinister history to wedge into a column) — is scheduled to meet individually with Clearwater councillors next week because few, to this point, have any idea what the church has in mind. Nor do the church’s ambitious plans require approve from council.

    Some on council insist Miscavige should make his case in public, with residents attending an open meeting. But of course the church does almost nothing openly, except advocate itself — and note here that Scientology has expanded to 184 nations around the globe, claiming 260 million people have gone through its Foundation for a Drug-Free World program, and active in global emergency relief programs in 120 countries.

    Since Jan. 31, the Times reported, businesses registered to a Scientology attorney bought two vacant lots on one street for $9 million, three buildings on another, totalling $11 million. Through companies registered to an Ybor City real estate broker, the church scooped up a landmark all-glass officer tower ($13 million), a nearby auto garage for $1.7 million, and through a private limited company, the Clearwater Mortgage building.

    The church boasts that it has renovated, restored or newly built 1.2 million square feet of property in the city.

    The Scientologists have accomplished all this, if often clandestinely, while the city flails away in its attempts to revitalize the city — though a 10-year $55-million play to reshape the waterfront and upgrade a concert venue was adopted last month.

    Clearwater seems torn about between those who, however warily, are willing to pass the development (private) buck to the church and those appalled by the Scientologist big-footing. They’re in no mood for a big leap of faith with a pseudo-church widely assailed with allegations (increasingly in documentaries and reality series by members who’ve gone AWOL) of brainwashing, abuse and fraud.

    In Clearwater, it’s almost impossible to avoid the chattel tentacles of Scientology. Is that Starbucks on church property? How about the cinema? Dare I eat a peach ice cream from that stand?

    Sitting at a counter stool at Emily’s Diner, near the bus station — leafing through a pile of literature from the welcome centre, including back issues of the church’s official magazine — feels like clinging to a toehold of un-Scientology reality.

    “What’ll you have, honey?” asks the waitress.

    Unlike the Scientology bots, her geniality sounds genuine.

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  23. The Wrong Guy Member

    Dynamic of City Council meetings with Scientology leader a rarity

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times


    It's not unusual for an elected official to venture into the community to meet with a citizen, but a major organization summoning each city council member out from City Hall to lobby a single issue? That almost never happens.

    In a rare dynamic where the constituent is beckoning each City Council member to his headquarters, instead of going to theirs, Scientology leader David Miscavige will host formal one-on-one meetings at the church's Fort Harrison Hotel on Tuesday to discuss his downtown retail strategy.

    Miscavige has not announced plans for a presentation to the general public, prompting one City Council member to decline her private meeting.

    The four who plan to visit Miscavige say it is their chance to learn more about the church's intentions for downtown and advocate for transparency.

    "How can I express my opinions to (Miscavige) unless I have an opportunity to meet with him?" Mayor George Cretekos said.

    City Council member Doreen Caudell initially accepted a private meeting with Miscavige when it was added to her calendar on Feb. 27. But after the Tampa Bay Times published an article Monday detailing the scope of Miscavige's plan, which involves the church controlling the downtown core, Caudell said she will not attend unless the public is included.

    It was common knowledge the church had been working on a general plan to recruit retail for years, but City Council members said they did not know the extent of the church's vision to manage a business district until the Times report.

    "I welcome Scientology to present their intended plan before us all at a public hearing," Caudell said. "We need transparency and communication."

    Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

    Cretekos said "it's up to him whether he wants to make it public," but that he is going to urge Miscavige to include citizens in the process.

    He said he is open to the idea of Scientology being in control of economic development if they can deliver a retail district that benefits the entire community, not just parishioners. Cretekos said Shaw told him two years ago the church was recruiting a Whole Foods, but "here it is two years later, and I haven't seen a Whole Foods in downtown Clearwater."

    "If Jeff Vinik were trying to buy up property and didn't want people to know he was buying property and he wanted to have a meeting, am I going to say no?" Cretekos said, referencing the Tampa Bay Lighting owner who launched a $2 billion redevelopment project in Tampa. "I'm not going to make a difference between a Jeff Vinik and a Church of Scientology until we see what the plans are, and then I'll make a determination if it's in the best interest of the city of Clearwater."

    But the church's strategy does not require approval from the council or voters and is already being implemented. Along with the more than $260 million in property Scientology has acquired under its name since arriving in Clearwater in 1975, and later establishing its international spiritual headquarters downtown, the church has bought more than $26 million of property in the central core over the past several weeks through shell companies.

    The concept involves recruiting a few major national retailers to anchor the district and filling the grid with handpicked businesses all at one time, similar to how an outdoor mall is established, said Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor and City Manager Bill Horne, who in October were shown renderings of the retail strategy by Miscavige but not given copies.

    Horne will be present for each council member's meeting with Miscavige.

    "It's a comfort level that I think both sides want to have in the meeting," Horne said. "Everybody is quite frankly on their best behavior."

    It is only the second time in Miscavige's 30 years leading Scientology that he has called for formal meetings with each elected official.

    The first time was in July to emphasize the church's interest in a 1.4-acre vacant lot across the street from City Hall that is owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The City Council is expected to vote Thursday on whether to buy the lot.

    Horne said Miscavige will also present the retail plan to a group of select downtown business owners at the Fort Harrison on Monday.

    City Council member Hoyt Hamilton said he won't skip the meeting with Miscavige because as downtown's largest landowner, city officials must keep open communication with Scientology.

    He said it's typical for an investor or business person to brief council members privately before presenting to the public, so Scientology should follow through with a transparent game plan.

    "We can't take the property back, we don't have that ability," Hamilton said. "They technically don't even have to come to us to do what they want to do. So we've got to play the hand we're dealt. I have no problem telling Mr. Miscavige the church as the property owner needs to be transparent and work with the organizations that have already been established concerning the downtown."

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  24. The Wrong Guy Member

    Monday's letters: Clearwater must stand firm in negotiations with Scientology | Tampa Bay Times


    City officials must stand firm

    "The Church of Scientology is maneuvering to control all downtown real estate to create a master retail district that will operate under its management and oversight." That is a scary and troubling statement, especially when city manager Bill Horne and city officials seem ready to abdicate their responsibility to control the economic and business development of Clearwater's downtown.

    When church leader David Miscavige finds it necessary and worth his time to get personally involved in the discussion, I say be wary, very wary. As Times business writer Robert Trigaux rightly points out, if city officials empower an already influential and controversial church to become an economic decisionmaker for the city core, abdicating control of downtown development, such action will certainly raise suspicions across the Tampa Bay area. The economic effect will be depressing at best.

    Now is the time for the mayor, city manager and city council to stand firm against any further erosion of their authority and powers. Any negotiations must be totally open and transparent — not something the Church of Scientology is noted for.

    John Hayner, Clearwater

    Church's negative impact

    As a resident of the Clearwater area since the '60s, I was there when Scientology came to town. They bought up land and buildings before Clearwater officials knew what hit them, and to this day they are still doing that.

    The city has tried for 20 years to revitalize downtown, which before Scientology arrived was a wonderful place to shop. They have not been successful because the average citizen wants nothing to do with Scientology.

    I agree that David Miscavige should make a presentation at the next council meeting, to include all members and the public.

    Sally White, Palm Harbor

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  25. The Wrong Guy Member

    David Miscavige wants to turn Clearwater into Scientology’s Vatican — but can he?

    By Rod Keller, The Underground Bunker


    On Tuesday, Scientology leader David Miscavige will be meeting individually with Clearwater city councilmembers after the unprecedented one-on-one sitdowns were delayed from last week. The meetings with Miscavige are not only exceedingly rare, but they will occur just two days before the council holds a March 16 vote whether to purchase a 1.4-acre parcel of land on the Clearwater waterfront that is owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

    The parcel was once intended as the new downtown home of the aquarium, a project Scientology opposed. The aquarium changed its plans, making the land available. The city’s plan to purchase it is part of a waterfront redevelopment effort it calls “Imagine Clearwater.” But Scientology would like to get its hands on the land to build another hotel for its wealthy members who come to town for expensive services.

    While Miscavige’s request to meet the city council members struck many as simply an intimidation play, the church then revealed a surprise — it has its own plan to redevelop Clearwater’s downtown with private money, and has been rapidly buying up property to make it happen. (While the Scientology plan was a surprise to the public and apparently also to the council, the plan was presented to the City Manager Bill Horne and the Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor by Scientology leader David Miscavige back in October.)

    It’s a pretty interesting choice facing the city council: Spend considerable taxpayer money to buy the parcel as part of its waterfront redevelopment in defiance of the Church of Scientology, or give up and let Scientology take the land in an auction as the church spends millions to make the downtown area into its own Vatican. (Scientology isn’t telling the public yet, however, just what outside businesses it might bring in for this plan.)

    While the focus has been on the aquarium parcel, we had another question: What are the properties in the new business district proposed by Scientology, and who owns them? The district is 16 city blocks, bounded by Osceola Ave., Drew St., Myrtle Ave. and Pierce St. with Clearwater’s main street – Cleveland – running down the center. We called up the owners at the properties asking which were for sale and which weren’t to get some idea how much Scientology could really get done.

    Continued at
  26. Mike Rinder: Clearwater on the Brink

    * * * * * BEGIN EXCERPT * * * * *

    [BIG SNIP]

    Less than a month ago, when the Tampa Bay Times began reporting speculation that recent property purchases in downtown were being done on behalf of scientology, scientology spokesman Ben Shaw was quoted as having told the Times that “the church has no further plans to expand our campus downtown.” It was not even a month before this was exposed as a study in semantic shape shifting, if not an outright lie. Clearly, this was a Clintonian “definition of ‘is'” style response. In this case, the definition of “our campus” being the key: scientology would define their “campus” as their “church facilities” not a downtown development plan. But City Manager Bill Horne had been briefed about that plan in October 2016 and apparently he did not see fit to alert the TBT what was going on or clarify the sleazy answer even though he knew the truth and the intent of the inquiry was clear. Is scientology buying more property — including the Atrium building? And the answer was at best evasive and at worst, a lie.

    They would of course say it was only to protect them from being gouged when they sought to buy property because people know the church has a lot of money. That excuse works for a profit making entity like Disney. It’s way harder to justify for a tax exempt “religion.” And if the prices are higher, isn’t this what scientology claims to want by revitalizing downtown?
    One thing you can be certain: whatever plan Miscavige presents will be full of promises.
    And they may even sound appealing. No doubt he will cite the “Florida State University Economic Impact Study” to the City Commissioners who respond to his summons to appear before him at the Ft Harrison hotel. That study was horrendously flawed – based on false and unverified information provided by scientology for the study they commissioned and paid for (I spent some time debunking this study in my blog post “Scientology Takes Clearwater For Suckers”).

    Remember, Miscavige has sold his scientology “ideal orgs” grand scheme — but virtually every one of those buildings is EMPTY.

    Same thing with Clearwater. Promise the moon, gobble up every lot and create an even greater buffer of emptiness to protect the “Spiritual Mecca” of scientology from the outside world encroaching on their bubble. This is the ONLY reason for wanting to control the downtown area. There is never ANYTHING altruistic about the motives of Miscavige and scientology. He will sound sincere in his private one-on-one meetings, but you can study his track record and know that unless something serves HIS interests FIRST, it receives no attention or support. One need only glance back to recent history. The ONE thing that might have attracted people to downtown Clearwater would be an Aquarium on the Bluff. Yet scientology vehemently opposed this idea and wanted to purchase the land for themselves.

    You can be certain that if Miscavige and scientology wanted to be PART of the development of downtown, they would have all their buildings open and accessible — not protected by Security Guards, cameras, Private Investigators and frosted glass windows you cannot see in. Their buildings are forbidding and somewhat creepy and it makes all of downtown Clearwater dark and creepy. You cannot see ANY activities of scientology in Clearwater — except their isolated “PR office” designed to present props and stage dressing as “good works” in the lobby of the old Clearwater Bank building — about 500 sq ft. And the empty Potemkin Village storefronts along N. Ft Harrison. That is it. You cannot enter or see in the Super Power Building. The Ft Harrison. The Oak Cover. The Sandcastle. The old Lee Arnold building. The Coachman. The WestCoast Building. Or ANYWHERE else that is a scientology property.

    Scientology is a secret kingdom that wants no outsiders seeing what is happening. From scientology’s perspective, the less “wogs” (non-scientologists) there are in downtown Clearwater, the better. This “Redevelopment Plan” is heading in the direction of guaranteeing that. Scientology ONLY wants scientologists in downtown Clearwater. While Miscavige has plenty of money to buy everything within 5 miles of the Ft Harrison hotel — there are not enough scientologists within 50 miles to keep two restaurants busy, let alone an entire downtown retail district. In case nobody has noticed — most scientologists in downtown Clearwater stay INSIDE the scientology buildings. And the majority of them are scientology staff with no disposable income.

    And finally, why are these meetings being conducted without the citizens of Clearwater being able to participate in the fact-finding and decision making process of their city? The Tampa Bay Times recent editorial (Scientology should discuss Clearwater plans in public) made this point eloquently.

    Why doesn’t Miscavige show up and make his presentation before the City Commission meeting in City Hall, broadcast on cable access TV so everyone gets to see what is being offered and hear his sales pitch? Just like everyone else. Because he is afraid of appearing before the public and media and being asked questions he cannot answer. So, he avoids public appearances of any sort, instead summoning city officials to his turf to ‘splain things to them.

    Why is the City Manager participating in this behind-closed-doors “planning” — reportedly accompanying each of the Commissioners who are planning to go forth and kiss Miscavige’s ring?

    If you are a citizen of Clearwater and you wish to express your views, here is the information from the City of Clearwater website:

    Send comments directly to City Manager’s Office

    Mailing Address:
    William Horne, City Manager
    Clearwater City Hall, 3rd Floor
    112 S. Osceola Ave. P.O. Box 4748
    Clearwater, FL 33756

    Location Address:
    Clearwater City Hall, 3rd Floor
    112 S. Osceola Ave.
    Clearwater, FL 33756

    (727) 562-4040

    (727) 562-4052

    * * * * * END EXCERPT * * * * *
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  27. The Wrong Guy Member

    Legal glitch delays Clearwater vote on property Church of Scientology covets | Tampa Bay Times


    The City Council's vote scheduled for Thursday on whether to buy a 1.4-acre downtown lot coveted by the Church of Scientology has been delayed a month because it wasn't properly advertised.

    ...the purchase discussion will be added to council's April 20 agenda.

    More at
  28. The Wrong Guy Member

    Church of Scientology to meet with city leaders one-on-one

    By Michael Paluska, WFTS-TV Tampa Bay, March 13, 2017


    There are big plans in the works for the City of Clearwater’s downtown area. The city has their vision and so does the Church of Scientology. According to online tax records, the church owns more than $200 million worth of property in the city.

    “You know the beach is just jumping and it’s a ghost town here” Clayton Irwin said. Irwin is the owner of the Lucky Anchor Irish Pub. His business is tucked into the heart of downtown, which also happens to be the epicenter of the Church of Scientology’s Spiritual Headquarters.

    Irwin spent half his live savings to open the bar. He said he didn’t know what to expect from parishioners. So far, he said the church has been very welcoming and even baked him cookies. But, Irwin says patrons that come into the bar ask him questions all the time about the church.

    “I hear it. I have to educate people every day that come into my bar,” Irwin said. “I get asked questions everyday, what’s the church like, what’s the church like, they are great neighbors they watch out for me and I watch out for them,” Irwin said.

    Since 1975, the church has been on a land grab in Clearwater. According to the church, they own 56 buildings totaling 2 million square feet. The buildings are used for “religious services, religious retreats, humanitarian and social betterment centers, support and administration,” according to Freedom Magazine, Published by the Church of Scientology International.

    Irwin told ABC Action News business is booming during major events downtown. But, day to day he struggles to win over the beach business.

    “When you see a lot of vacant buildings like this it doesn't look good for general public coming in, because they don't know that downtown is starting to rebuild,” Irwin said.

    Clearwater Mayor and Council unanimously voted to approve a $50 million waterfront revitalization project. According to the 144 page master plan, the project needs the support of the church to be completely successful.

    They may have some property they may want to develop for retail, restaurants for commercial space,” Mayor George Cretekos said. "They own lots of property here. Some of it we hope they will use to redevelop for commercial space, offices, for restaurants for retail, maybe even a movie theater. I would like to think their interest is our interest in redeveloping the downtown.”

    Cretekos and city council will meet one-on-one Tuesday with church leader, David Miscavige. City officials tell us they expect to learn more about the church’s plan to redevelop downtown. And, Miscavige is expected to make the church’s plea for $4 million piece of vacant land adjacent to City Hall that is owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

    Since last month, ABC Action News has been working on this report regarding the future of downtown Clearwater. Despite multiple requests for the church to go on the record and do a sit down camera interview, they have declined. We want to know what their vision of a redeveloped downtown would look like.

    The Public Relations Director, Pat Harney, sent ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska a copy of the 2014 Urban Land Institute report on Clearwater, Florida, along with a second study called The Economic Impact Study of the Church of Scientology on Clearwater, Florida and surrounding areas by the Florida State University Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis, as well as the 2016 year-end edition of Freedom, a magazine published by the Church of Scientology International.

    Harney declined to comment further saying, “with all things considered, we do not have anything to announce just yet."

    Seth Taylor, the city Community Redevelopment Agency Director said members of the church are entitled to their opinion about the future of downtown, but stressed, the city is leading the effort to reimagine downtown.

    “They shouldn't be the ones as a religious institution, who are shaping and shepherding the retail development strategy,” Taylor said.

    Taylor said the city wants more mom and pop businesses downtown, the city wants more high end retailers. Taylor said the city wants “a downtown that reflects the local community and region.”

    The vote on the aquarium land that was set for Thursday March 16 has been rescheduled to April 20.

    This is a developing story. Check back for updates tomorrow after we learn more about the meeting with Miscavige.

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  29. It appears the "one-on-one" meetings are designed to circumvent Florida's Sunshine law (i.e., open meetings law in other states). See:

    Private one-on-one informational briefings between individual county commissioners and staff did not violate the Sunshine Law (at pg. 5), citing Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government v. City of Sarasota, 48 So. 3d 755 (Fla. 2010)).

    More specifically, in Sarasota Citizen v. City of Sarasota, 48 So. 3d 755 (Fla. 2010), the Florida Supreme Court held:


    Citizens next argue that the trial court erred in determining that the private staff briefings of individual board members in preparation for the July 22, 2009 public hearing did not violate the Sunshine Law. We agree with the contrary arguments of the City and County and affirm the trial court.

    This Court has explained that meetings within the meaning of the Sunshine Law include any gathering, formal or informal, of two or more members of the same board or commission "where the members deal with some matter on which foreseeable action will be taken by the Board." Tolar v. School Bd. of Liberty County, 398 So. 2d 427, 428 (Fla.1981); see also Bd. of Pub. Instruction v. Doran, 224 So. 2d 693, 698 (Fla.1969). However, public officials may call upon staff members for factual information and advice without being subject to the Sunshine Law's requirements. See Occidental Chem. Co. v. Mayo, 351 So. 2d 336, 342 (Fla.1977); Wood, 442 So.2d at 940 ("The Second District found no violation, holding, inter alia, that the meetings were not decision-making in nature, but were `for the purpose of "fact-finding" to assist him in the execution of [his] duties,' [Bennett,] 333 So.2d at 99, and we approve the holding that such fact-finding staff consultations are not subject to the Sunshine Law.").

    Here, Bullock, individually and assisted by other County staff, held one-on-one meetings in the two- or three-day period immediately preceding the Board's public *765 meeting on July 22, 2009. These meetings were informational briefings regarding the contents of the MOU, where Bullock would also ask if the individual members had any questions about the MOU. There is no evidence that Bullock or other County staff communicated what any commissioner said to any other commissioner.

    These informational briefings for individual members of the Board were not violations of the Sunshine Law. As this Court has explained,

    members of a collegial administrative body are not obliged to avoid their staff during the evaluation and consideration stages of their deliberations. Were this so, the value of staff expertise would be lost and the intelligent use of employees would be crippled.

    Occidental, 351 So.2d at 342 n. 10. Therefore, we affirm the trial court's ruling regarding these one-on-one meetings.


    The Florida Bar provides the following summary of the law on this issue which lends credence to the theory that the City of Clearwater and the Church of Scientology are attempting to circumvent the Florida Sunshine (i.e., open meetings) law -- whether they will be successful or not.!OpenDocument#C.WHATISAMEETINGSUBJECTTO

    * * * * * BEGIN EXCERPT * * * * *


    1. Number of board members required to be present

    The Sunshine Law extends to the discussions and deliberations as well as the formal action taken by a public board or commission. There is no requirement that a quorum be present for a meeting of members of a public board or commission to be subject to section 286.011, Florida Statutes. Instead, the law is applicable to any gathering, whether formal or casual, of two or more members of the same board or commission to discuss some matter on which foreseeable action will be taken by the public board or commission. Hough v. Stembridge, 278 So. 2d 288 (Fla. 3d DCA 1973).

    Thus, two members of a civil service board violated the Sunshine Law when they held a private discussion of a pending employment appeal during a recess of the board meeting. Citizens for Sunshine, Inc. v. City of Sarasota, No. 2010CA4387NC (Fla. 12th Cir. Ct. February 27, 2012). Compare Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 04-58 (2004) ("coincidental unscheduled meeting of two or more county commissioners to discuss emergency issues with staff" during a declared state of emergency not subject to s. 286.011 if the issues do not require action by the county commission).

    2. Circumstances in which the Sunshine Law may apply to a single individual or where two board members are not physically present

    The Sunshine Law applies to public boards and commissions, i.e., collegial bodies. As discussed supra, section 286.011, Florida Statutes, applies to meetings of "two or more members" of the same board or commission when discussing some matter which will foreseeably come before the board or commission.

    Therefore, section 286.011, Florida Statutes, would not ordinarily apply to an individual member of a public board or commission or to public officials who are not board or commission members. See, Deerfield Beach Publishing, Inc. v. Robb, 530 So. 2d 510 (Fla. 4th DCA 1988) (requisite to application of the sunshine law is a meeting between two or more public officials); City of Sunrise v. News and Sun-Sentinel Company, 542 So. 2d 1354 (Fla. 4th DCA 1989); Mitchell v. School Board of Leon County, 335 So. 2d 354 (Fla. 1st DCA 1976); and Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government v. City of Sarasota, 48 So. 3d 755 (Fla. 2010) (private one-on-one informational briefings between individual county commissioners and staff did not violate the Sunshine Law).

    Certain factual situations, however, have arisen where, in order to assure public access to the decision-making processes of public boards or commissions, it has been necessary to conclude that the presence of two individuals of the same board or commission is not necessary to trigger application of section 286.011, Florida Statutes. As stated by the Supreme Court, the Sunshine Law is to be construed "so as to frustrate all evasive devices." Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 So. 2d 473, 477 (Fla. 1974).

    a. Written correspondence between board members

    A city commissioner may, outside a public meeting, send documents that the commissioner wishes other members of the commission to consider on matters coming before the commission for official action, provided that there is no response from, or interaction related to such documents among, the commissioners prior to the public meeting. Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 07-35 (2007). In such cases, the records, which are subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act, are not being used as a substitute for action at a public meeting as there is no interaction among the commissioners prior to the meeting. Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 89-23 (1989).

    If, however, a report is circulated among board members for comments with such comments being provided to other members, there is interaction among the board members which is subject to section 286.011, Florida Statutes. Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 90-3 (1990). Accordingly, while a school board member may prepare and circulate an informational memorandum or position paper to other board members, the use of a memorandum to solicit comment from other board members or the circulation of responsive memoranda by other board members would violate the Sunshine Law. Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 96-35 (1996).

    b. Meetings conducted over the telephone or using electronic media technology

    (1) Discussions conducted via telephones, email, text messaging or other electronic means are not exempted from the Sunshine Law.

    As discussed previously, the Sunshine Law applies to discussions between two or more members of a board or commission on some matter which foreseeably will come before that board or commission for action. The use of a telephone to conduct such discussions does not remove the conversation from the requirements of section 286.011, Florida Statutes. See, State v. Childers, No. 02-21939-MMC; 02-21940-MMB (Escambia Co. Ct. June 5, 2003), per curiam affirmed, 886 So. 2d 229 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004) (telephone conversation during which two county commissioners and the supervisor of elections discussed redistricting violated the Sunshine Law).

    Similarly, board members may not use computers to conduct private discussions among themselves about board business. Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 89-39 (1989). Thus, while a city commissioner is not prohibited from posting comments on the city’s Facebook page, commissioners “must not engage in an exchange or discussion of matters that foreseeably will come before the board or commission for official action.” Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 09-19 (2009). Cf., Inf. Op. to Galaydick, October 15, 1995, advising that school board members may share a laptop computer even though the hard drive of the computer contains information reflecting the ideas of an individual member as long as the computer is not being used as a means of communication between members; and Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 01-20 (2001) (a one-way e-mail communication from one city council member to another, when it does not result in the exchange of council members’ comments or responses on subjects requiring council action, does not constitute a meeting subject to the Sunshine Law; however, such e-mail communications are public records).

    (2) Authority of boards to conduct public meetings via electronic media technology (e.g. telephone or video conferencing).

    A related issue is whether a board is authorized to conduct public meetings via electronic media technology (e.g., telephone or video conferencing). The answer to this question depends upon whether the board is a state or local government agency.

    In Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 98-28 (1998), the Attorney General’s Office concluded that section 120.54(5)(b)2., Florida Statutes, authorizes state agencies to conduct meetings via electronic means provided that the board complies with uniform rules of procedure adopted by the state Administration Commission. These rules contain notice requirements and procedures for providing points of access for the public. See, Rule 28-109, Florida Administrative Code.

    As to local boards, the Attorney General's Office advised that the authorization in section 120.54(5)(b)2., Florida Statutes, to conduct meetings entirely through the use of communications media technology applies only to state agencies. Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 98-28 (1998). Thus, since section 1001.372(2)(b), Florida Statutes, requires a district school board to hold its meetings at a "public place in the county," a quorum of the board must be physically present at the meeting of the school board. Id.

    However, if a quorum of a local board is physically present at the public meeting site, "the participation of an absent member by telephone conference or other interactive electronic technology is permissible when such absence is due to extraordinary circumstances such as illness[;] . . . [w]hether the absence of a member due to a scheduling conflict constitutes such a circumstance is a determination that must be made in the good judgment of the board." Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 03-41 (2003).

    For example, if a quorum of a local board is physically present at the public meeting site, a board may allow a member with health problems to participate and vote in board meetings through the use of such devices as a speaker telephone that allow the absent member to participate in discussions, to be heard by other board members and the public, and to hear discussions taking place during the meeting. Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 94-55 (1994). See also, Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 02-82 (2002) (physically-disabled members of a city advisory committee participating and voting by electronic means).

    However, the use of electronic media technology does not satisfy quorum requirements necessary for official action to be taken by local boards. Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 06-20 (2006). “[W]here a quorum is necessary for action to be taken, physical presence of the members making up the quorum is required in the absence of a statute requiring otherwise.” Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 09-56 (2009). Accordingly, a city may not adopt an ordinance allowing members of a city board to appear by electronic means to constitute a quorum. Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 10-34 (2010).

    The physical presence of a quorum has not been required, however, where electronic media technology (such as video conferencing and digital audio) is used to allow public access and participation at workshop meetings where no formal action will be taken. Thus, the Attorney General’s Office concluded that local boards may use electronic media technology to conduct informal discussions and workshops over the Internet, provided that proper notice is given, and interactive access by members of the public is provided. Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 01-66 (2001). See also Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 06-20 (2006).

    However, the use of an electronic bulletin board to discuss matters over an extended period of days or weeks violates the Sunshine Law by circumventing the notice and access provisions of that law. Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 02-32 (2002). Compare, Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 08-65 (2008) (city advisory boards may conduct workshops lasting no more than two hours using an on-line bulletin board if proper notice is given and interactive access to members of the public is provided and the city ensures that operating-type assistance is available where the computers for the public are located).

    c. Delegation of authority to single individual

    If a member of a public board is authorized only to explore various contract proposals with the applicant selected for the position of executive director, with such proposals being related back to the governing body for consideration, the discussions between the board member and the applicant are not subject to the Sunshine Law. Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 93-78 (1993). If, however, the board member has been delegated the authority to reject certain options from further consideration by the entire board, the board member is performing a decision-making function that must be conducted in the sunshine. Ops. Att’y Gen. Fla. 95-06 (1995) and Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 93-78 (1993). And see, News-Press Publishing Company, Inc. v. Carlson, 410 So. 2d 546, 547-548 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982) (when public officials delegate de facto authority to act on their behalf in the formulation, preparation, and promulgation of plans upon which foreseeable action will be taken by the public officials, then delegates stand in the shoes of such public officials insofar as the Sunshine Law is concerned). Compare, Lee County v. Pierpont, 693 So. 2d 994 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997) (authorization to county attorney to make settlement offers to landowners not to exceed appraised value plus 20%, rather than a specific dollar amount, did not violate the Sunshine Law).

    Thus, while the Sunshine Law would not ordinarily apply to an individual member of a public board or commission or to public officials who are not board or commission members, the Sunshine law does apply when there has been a delegation of a board’s decision-making authority. Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 10-15 (2010).
    It must be recognized, however, that the applicability of the Sunshine Law relates to the discussions of a single individual who has been delegated decision-making authority on behalf of a board or commission. If the individual, rather than the board, is vested by law, charter or ordinance with the authority to take action, such discussions are not subject to section 286.011, Florida Statutes. See, City of Sunrise v. News and Sun-Sentinel Company, 542 So. 2d 1354 (Fla. 4th DCA 1989). Cf. Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 13-14 (2013) (where contract terms regarding the police chief’s employment have been discussed and approved at a public city commission meeting, Sunshine Law does not require that the written employment contract drafted by the town attorney as directed by the commission be subsequently presented to, considered and approved by the commission at a Sunshine Law compliant meeting).

    d. Use of nonmembers as liaisons between board members or to conduct a “de facto” meeting of board members

    The Sunshine Law is applicable to meetings between a board member and an individual who is not a member of the board when that individual is being used as a liaison between, or to conduct a de facto meeting of, board members. For example, in Blackford v. School Board of Orange County, 375 So. 2d 578 (Fla. 5th DCA 1979), the court held that a series of scheduled successive meetings between the school superintendent and individual members of the school board were subject to the Sunshine Law. While normally meetings between the school superintendent and an individual school board member would not be subject to section 286.011, Florida Statutes, these meetings were held in "rapid-fire succession" in order to avoid a public airing of a controversial redistricting problem. They amounted to a de facto meeting of the school board in violation of section 286.011, Florida Statutes.

    Not all decisions taken by staff, however, need to be made or approved by a board. Thus, the district court concluded in Florida Parole and Probation Commission v. Thomas, 364 So. 2d 480 (Fla. 1st DCA 1978), that the decision to appeal made by legal counsel to a public board after discussions between the legal staff and individual members of the commission was not subject to the Sunshine Law.

    * * * * * END EXCERPT * * * * *
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  30. The Wrong Guy Member

  31. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology's David Miscavige talks about Cleveland Street redevelopment and entertainment center backed by Tom Cruise

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times


    Scientology leader David Miscavige on Tuesday revealed to a City Council member the church's redevelopment plan for recruiting businesses to Cleveland Street and funding a facade overhaul for the main thoroughfare rather than controlling the entire downtown footprint.

    Beyond the $260 million of Clearwater real estate the church owns in its name, and more than $26 million in property it bought through anonymous shell companies over the last two months, Scientology does not intend to buy more downtown property, Miscavige told Vice Mayor Bill Jonson in a private meeting at the Fort Harrison Hotel. Other council members were scheduled to meet with Miscavige later in the day.

    Actor and noted Scientologist Tom Cruise is also helping the church develop an entertainment complex on two blocks of vacant lots the church purchased last month along Myrtle Avenue between Cleveland and Drew streets, Jonson said.

    City Council members are meeting individually with Miscavige, his consultants and City Manager Bill Horne throughout the day to be briefed on the plan. Jonson said Miscavige plans to make an invitation-only presentation to downtown property owners and his parishioners but did not commit to a presentation for the general public.

    Jonson said Miscavige described the proposal as collaborative and said it depends on cooperation with existing property owners.

    "He pointed to Mr. Horne and said 'your job is to run the city. I don't want to do that. I don't intend to do that,'" Jonson said.

    Miscavige displayed about 20 renderings showing Cleveland Street before-and-after the proposed renovations, and although he didn't provide names of any retail businesses the church has recruited, Jonson said "some of their graphics show a steakhouse and more restaurants ... but also retail clothing. A variety of stuff."

    Although Miscavige did not provide a cost estimate for the redevelopment or how much the church was willing to contribute, he said it was possible to accomplish over a short period of time, according to Jonson.

    Miscavige also showed Jonson a video simulation of plans to turn the 13-story Oak Cove religious retreat on Osceola Avenue into a hotel. Jonson said he did not know if it would be for the public or parishioners only.

    The church has emphasized its interest in buying the 1.4 acre vacant lot owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium adjacent to the Oak Cove and across the street from City Hall to build a playground, garden and swimming pool for the hotel project.

    The City Council is scheduled to vote on April 20 on whether to buy the aquarium property to include it in the city's $55 million downtown waterfront redevelopment plan.

    "The overall takeaway is it will depend on the property owners and the people of Clearwater to say 'yes, this is what we want to do' and participate in it," Jonson said. "I encouraged them to share this information just as soon as they could because there's a lot of questions in the public about it and that's the process of government in the sunshine."

    This is a developing story. Check back later with for a complete report.

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  32. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater leaders meet with Church of Scientology about downtown plans

    By Jenny Dean, WTSP Tampa Bay


    A new vision for downtown Clearwater from the Church of Scientology. Today church leaders met with Clearwater council members, showing them what they think the downtown should be. The church has been buying property around downtown near its international headquarters on Fort Harrison.

    "I think there's a lot of potential to it," says Clearwater Vice Mayor Bill Jonson who seemed encouraged after his meeting with Church of Scientology Chairman David Miscavige.

    Jonson says the church's plans for its property along Cleveland Street goes well with the city's plan. "What the millennials want is an authentic downtown that has retail on both sides that feels comfortable, that feels more open and is a neat place to hang out."

    That was also City Manager Bill Horne's biggest concern. "We're all working together to try and improve our retail picture so yeah. I think it's consistent with what we're all trying to do."

    Mayor George Cretekos says it was a positive meeting and he isn't concerned about people not coming to downtown because of the church's involvement. "We need to try and revitalize our downtown and if the church is willing to help us do that and if we can get our residents to buy into this program."

    There is one council member, however, who decided not to take a private meeting with the Scientologists. Doreen Caudell also sent a letter to the city manager saying they need to have a public hearing in front of the city council and the entire community. While the vice mayor did take a private meeting, he agreed the church needs to be more transparent. "He was very open about his proposal. Now we will see if he follows through and provides that to the rest of the community."

    Cretekos didn't have a problem with it. "I meet with countless people all the time. Developers come in and visit with us to bounce off ideas. The media isn't there," he says. However, the mayor says the church will make its plans public when it has more specifics.

    Maybe you're wondering how can council members meet privately with church leaders about city business? It's allowed if the members have their meetings individually. But any notes taken by city leaders or any plans given out are public record.

    • Like Like x 1
  33. Jeff Jacobsen Member

    I started to stress the history of Scientology trying to control Clearwater. and .com link to it.
    • Like Like x 3
  34. The Wrong Guy Member

    Report: Tom Cruise Used as Bait by Scientology Leader in Clearwater, Florida Real Estate Deal

    By Roger Friedman, Showbiz411


    Movie star Tom Cruise was used this week as bait for a Scientology real estate deal in Clearwater, Florida.

    The Tampa Bay Times reports that Scientology cult leader David Miscavige met with members of the Clearwater city council to persuade them to back his plans to turn Clearwater into a Scientology hub. The Times reports that Miscavige told Clearwater Vice Mayor Bill Jonson that Tom Cruise would be involved in the group’s Entertainment Center.

    There has been speculation recently that Cruise — who’s been offloading his real estate in Los Angeles and Telluride — was planning to move to a new luxury triplex penthouse that’s being constructed in Clearwater atop a Scientology building.

    From the Times:

    In the 10th floor ballroom of the church’s Fort Harrison Hotel, Miscavige, who is rarely seen in public, put on a theatrical display of his vision for Clearwater’s urban core using blown-up before-and-after renderings and video simulations on a large flat screen TV. Miscavige avoided having to open the meetings to the public and the press because he invited council members one-by-one to sit at a conference table to hear his pitch.

    According to the Times, Scientology has acquired $260 million worth of real estate in Clearwater since 1975. Through shell companies — meaning not use their own name — they purchased $26 million worth of property since January 1st of this year.

    • Like Like x 2
  35. Quentinanon Member

    Not surprising that the scientology crime syndicate is using their old celebrity endorsement tactic to sell their increase in occupation of downtown Clearwater.
    And Mayor George Cretekos is quite gullible.
  36. The Wrong Guy Member

    Tom Cruise’s Clearwater Revival Plans Have No Credence as Florida City Fights Scientology Take Over

    By Roger Friedman, Showbiz411


    As I told you yesterday, the plan is on for Scientology to take over the major retail districts of Clearwater, Florida. Cult leader David Miscavige made an appeal last week to the city council, trying to persuade members individually at the local Scientology headquarters that the group should be allowed to move in and “save” their city.

    On April 20th the Clearwater City Council will meet to vote on buying a key piece of downtown property, a former aquarium desired by Miscavige as part of his “take over.” The meeting had been set for tonight but the Scientology attempt to influence the vote has caused a delay.

    This week, Miscavige told all about one member of the city council that Tom Cruise himself was in favor of a new entertainment center including movie theaters and a bowling alley in the aquarium space. Cruise, it’s understood, is going to be living in the penthouse of one of the many buildings Scientology just purchased downtown under a pseudonym.

    Doreen Caudell, the one city council member who refused to meet with Miscavige, sent a letter to the mayor of Clearwater saying that Miscavige should meet with the public in an open forum. Caudell, a lifelong resident, isn’t someone Miscavige wants to fool around with. According to her bio, she’s embedded in the city’s political, business and social fabric.

    I obtained exclusively a copy of Caudell’s letter. She wrote:

    These individual meetings, requested exclusively by Scientology, ignore transparency and inappropriately snub our great community and our citizens from commenting on Scientology’s retail plan. As the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, our wonderful and strong business advocate for downtown and our region, correctly stated, ‘we need open communication and coordination on downtown development plans.”

    She continued:

    We, as a council, have received an outpour of comments from our community detesting the private meetings Scientology arranged. I think we all completely agree with our strong community in this matter. The citizens of Clearwater elected us, and I insist on standing up for them, if you, sir, will not.

    Caudell is bolstered by a single sentence from a report commissioned by the city (and noted in the Tampa Bay Times): “The significant presence of the Church of Scientology members spending time downtown contributes to a sense of alienation among non-members.” In other words: the cult members are freaking out the regular people.

    So far, Cruise himself has not made an appearance in Clearwater. But one city council member told me of Miscavige: “He’s very dynamic. And he’s only five-foot-five.”

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  37. Info from ESMB:

    And in case anyone wishes to contact Doreen Caudell, here is her official Facebook page:
    Doreen Caudell Councilmember for the City Of Clearwater

    This is webpage for Clearwater City Council but it appears to be down now.

    One can Tweet at Doreen Caudell at:

    • Like Like x 1
  38. The Wrong Guy Member

    From infrastructure to ScientologyVille, four issues that are now Tampa Bay priorities

    By Robert Trigaux, Tampa Bay Times Business Columnist


    Welcome to ScientologyVille

    So this is what abdication feels like. Downtown Clearwater, long under the thumb of a well-financed and growing Church of Scientology, is throwing in the towel and will let Scientologists take charge of much of the city core's economic development.

    It's a disturbing, astonishing turn of events. Just wait until the world stops fixating on Trump long enough to clue in to Clearwater's surrender. A few newspapers already are paying attention, as this Toronto Star newspaper story from earlier this month notes: "In this down-on-its-heels resort town, one thing is for sure: (Scientology's) an occupying power and avaricious property-gobbling enterprise."

    This is just the beginning. Clearwater was long shunned by expanding businesses and other because of the overwhelming presence of Scientology. Now it may win too much attention as the city that couldn't, the downtown that failed to hold its own. Is downtown Clearwater about to become the Scientology version of Vatican City?

    Heads up, Tampa Bay. The broader region may not remain immune to the radical rebranding of one of the three cities that make up the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area. Businesses, millennials, retirees, tourists: They will all take notice. Some, perhaps many, will ponder alternative destinations.

    Perhaps the Toronto Star headline says it best: "Scientology's Florida kingdom like something out of a Stephen King novel"

    May that not become our next slogan.

    • Like Like x 1
  39. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology retail plan is rare, as few churches back non-religious businesses

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times


    Scientology has long set its practices apart from other tax-exempt religions by charging members for auditing sessions and courses required to advance through the faith.

    But the church's proposal to develop retail and entertainment in downtown Clearwater makes it more of an outlier.

    The IRS permits tax-exempt churches to have for-profit business ventures unrelated to their religious missions, but it is rare in the United States.

    Of the country' 1.5 million nonprofits, only 34,181, including 16,416 churches and charities, reported having income from unrelated businesses in 2013, according to the most recent data from the IRS.

    The most notable example is a $1.5 billion mixed use development in Salt Lake City, backed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    While it's impossible to know all of a private organization's holdings, most of the real estate portfolios and other business investments churches have are related to their missions, like schools, hospitals and even bookstores or cafes for congregations, said Notre Dame Law School professor Lloyd Mayer.

    When churches invest in business outside of their spiritual purposes, profits other than investment income are taxed at the same rate as corporations. But because churches are not required to file tax returns with the IRS, Mayer said questions can arise around whom those proceeds are benefiting and whether the non-faith related businesses make up a disproportionate amount of the church's activities.

    "There's nothing illegal about a charity, including a church, taking its assets and investing them in a productive way, including a for-profit business," Mayer said. "The thing you worry about is, is it paying taxes like it should and is it benefiting the insiders of the church? The question is do these business deals in some way help the Church of Scientology leaders personally make money?"

    Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw did not respond to a request for comment.

    In addition to the $260 million in real estate Scientology owns under its name in Clearwater, 75 percent of which is tax exempt for religious uses, the church also bought more than $26 million of downtown property over the past two months through shell companies.

    In individual meetings Tuesday that were closed to the public, Scientology leader David Miscavige briefed City Council members on his retail plan that includes the church recruiting businesses to Cleveland Street and building an entertainment complex involving actor and noted Scientologist Tom Cruise on Myrtle Avenue.

    Washington D.C. tax attorney Charles Watkins said rental income from a retail business leasing space in a church-owned building would be tax exempt because it's viewed as investment income, even though the church would pay property taxes for the non-religious use of the building.

    But if the church owns the building through shell companies, it's more complicated.

    "If a church owns a gas station and sells gas and services in the same way as the ExxonMobil on the corner, it would be taxed on those profits, but if it invests in a corporation that owns a business, the corporation would be taxed but the dividends to the church would not," Watkins said.

    Churches also participate in businesses by running them as separate for-profit entities where the church is the sole owner.

    The largest scale retail development known to be backed by a religious organization in the U.S. is the City Creek Center built in downtown Salt Lake City in 2012.

    The development of 104 stores, seven restaurants, and 536 condos and apartments was financed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    The development is owned by the church's for-profit real estate arm, City Creek Reserve, and managed by Taubman Inc., so there is no ecclesiastical oversight.

    City Creek Reserve spokesman Dale Bills declined to answer specific questions, providing only a 14-year-old statement where former LDS President Gordon Hinckley said "tithing funds have not and will not be used to acquire this property. Nor will they be used in developing it for commercial purposes."

    The project is credited with turning around the struggling downtown that was reeling from the recession and lingering disruption from a massive 2002 freeway construction project.

    Its opening in 2012 prompted about $3 billion in additional private development in the city, according to Salt Lake Chamber CEO Lane Beattie.

    "It wasn't even questioned here," Beattie said of the public's reception of a church backing a commercial enterprise. "The word religion didn't enter into it. It was the fact that any organization was doing it."

    Natalie Gochnour, Associate Dean of the David Eccles School of Business at University of Utah, said part of the success has to do with the Mormon church's collaboration with the general public and city officials in the planning and design.

    Salt Lake City is about 50 percent Mormon with the religion's global headquarters based downtown.

    Gochnour said the church's massive Temple Square District operates harmoniously near the Utah Jazz's arena, the Utah Symphony, and the state's arts, culture and culinary nucleus where more than 100,000 people commute in every day to work.

    "I think now people think of City Creek Center as just an incredible destination, and they don't associate it with the church," Gochnour said. "They didn't cut corners, they didn't go with their own plans, but they listened to the public."


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