Daily Mail: "Scientology town Clearwater"

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

  1. The Wrong Guy Member

    Tony Ortega‏nt @TonyOrtega94 1 minute ago
    No Scientologists or church representatives showed up to speak tonight. Miscavige knew it was a done deal. Vote coming in minutes.

    Laura C. Morel‏nt @lauracmorel 42 seconds ago
    City council member: "The best way for us, this city council, to facilitate the desire of community is to buy this parcel."

    Laura C. Morel‏nt @lauracmorel 55 seconds ago
    That last quote was council member Doreen Caudell.

    Clearwater City Council has just voted. All were in favor of the city purchasing the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
  2. The Cleawater City Council unanimously voted, 5 - 0, to purchase the downtown aquarium property also sought by the Church of Scientology.

    More to come.
  3. The Wrong Guy Member

    Here's a comment that was posted below Tony Ortega's article today:

    Dee Findlay-DeElizabethan 8 minutes ago

    Whaooooooo! I finally did it. Apologized to the citizens of Clearwater tonight. A well-known reporter told me not to do it 4 years ago, but I was a nervous wreck then, so just as well. I'm still a little shaky, but this time determined and it needed to get done. Period. Channel 8 NBC local did an interview of why I was against the scios buying the land. Greed, money and power were some of my answer.

    Now to have some fine wine as needed and will read the Bunker. Happy day for me.
    • Like Like x 2
  4. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater votes to buy land Church of Scientology wanted | WTSP

    The Clearwater City Council has handed the Church of Scientology's plans for downtown a setback. The council has voted to buy a plot of land from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium that the church was interested in purchasing. The vote was 5-0.

    Clearwater votes to buy aquarium land, effectively blocking Scientology bid | FOX 13 Tampa Bay
  5. Quentinanon Member

    Flash News!
    David Miscavige kicks Ben Shaw in the balls and sends him to the RPF.
    Tonight Davey nurses his midget ego with a bottle of his best friend in the universe, Laphroaig scotch whiskey.
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  6. The Wrong Guy Member

    City votes to buy Clearwater Marine Aquarium land blocking Church of Scientology’s expansion | ABC Action News

    For more than two years the Church of Scientology and the City of Clearwater have been jockeying back and forth on who should own a 1.4-acre parcel of land in downtown Clearwater.
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  7. VIDEO: Clearwater votes to buy lot coveted by Church of Scientology l WFLA

    Clearwater City Council members voted unanimously to purchase a vacant piece of land at the corner of Pierce Street and South Osceola Avenue, Thursday evening.

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  8. Incredulicide Member

    Video Waybacked
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  9. The Wrong Guy Member

    This is from February of 2013:

    Bunker reader Dee Findlay stole the show as Clearwater stood up to Scientology last night

    By Tony Ortega, April 21, 2017


    By now you’ve probably heard that the city of Clearwater is the proud owner of a 1.4-acre parcel of downtown land after its city council voted unanimously to purchase it from an aquarium company and defy the Church of Scientology, which wanted the plot for its own uses.

    The parcel sits between City Hall and two of Scientology’s Clearwater landmarks, the Fort Harrison and Oak Cove hotels, where wealthy Scientologists come from around the world to pay for expensive auditing levels they can get nowhere else.

    Miscavige said he wanted the plot for a swimming pool for guests at the Oak Cove, which was farcical. The real reason, former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder told us, was to keep non-Scientologists away from the Fort Harrison, the church’s holiest spot on Earth.

    But at last night’s city council meeting, no Scientologists or church executives came forward to speak during the time for public comment before the council’s vote. And one person who did come forward to speak really stole the show.

    It was our own Dee Findlay, longtime Underground Bunker reader and Clearwater resident, whom we wrote about in 2013 when her activity at this website got her declared a “suppressive person” by the church.

    We knew her story, but still, what she said at the meeting knocked us over. After a faltering start about what she intended to talk about, she found her footing.

    Continued at
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  10. Incredulicide Member

    Does anyone have a clip of just Dee on video from that meeting?

    BTW, before the vote happened Aaron Smith-Levin was interviewed about it on radio
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  11. The Wrong Guy Member

    Downtown Clearwater development uncertain after land purchase | FOX 13 Tampa Bay

    By Dan Matics, FOX 13 News


    A major development project in downtown Clearwater may not happen after a vote by the city to purchase land coveted by the Church of Scientology.

    The city voted Thursday night to buy a vacant lot beside city hall from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for $4.25 million. The Church of Scientology also bid on the property - for $15 million. The vote was preceded by a long line of community members eager to comment on the potential purchase. Many of them were in favor.

    Now that the city has decided to buy the land, the plan is for them to build a shopping plaza. The church hoped to expand its footprint in that location and put millions into redeveloping Cleveland Street. The church had planned to bring in high end retail and spruce up store fronts.

    Some in the area now say the church's plan to redevelop the Cleveland Street area may have been better for local businesses.

    Read more about the city's purchase here:

  12. The Wrong Guy Member

    Sensibly Speaking Podcast #86: Scientology's Clearwater Strategy ft. Aaron Smith-Levin

    By Chris Shelton, April 22, 2017


    Aaron Smith-Levin and I discuss some recent events in Clearwater, Florida and the Church of Scientology, including where we think things may be going there into the future.
  13. The Wrong Guy Member

    Here's a new press release from the cult:

    Downtown Clearwater Spring Block Party Preparations Underway

    On May 6th 2017 from 6:00-10:00pm, the Church of Scientology is sponsoring their third Downtown Block Party for the community. The event will be on the corner of Cleveland Street and Fort Harrison Ave. Preparations are well in progress.

    “We are looking forward to the next party,” said Nicole Biancolini, Block Party organizer and Church of Scientology staff member, referencing the face painting, bouncy house, train rides, a gyroscope, the raffle items and food trucks confirmed for the event.

    The party features charitable and non-profit organizations with booths that present what they do to the community. At the Spring Block Party, non-profits will include Feed Our Children Ministries, Speaker of Hope, AVOID, Angels on Assignment Worldwide and the Red Cross.

    Over 3,300 Tampa Bay residents flooded Cleveland Street during the last block party on November 5th, 2016. Guests enjoyed live music by the Flag Band, food from some of the area's most popular food trucks and downtown Clearwater restaurants.

    “We had a great time at the last Block Party,” said Al Graham from the Second Chance Life Skills non-profit. “We got a ton of exposure for our organization and it was a lot of fun!”

    In addition to the festivities, Block Party goers will have the opportunity to find out all about the social programs supported by Scientologists around the world. Along Fort Harrison Ave. lie the Scientology Information Center and six centers devoted to their respective non-profit humanitarian organizations. They are: United for Human Rights of Florida; The Way to Happiness Association of Tampa Bay; Foundation for a Drug-Free World; Criminon Florida; Scientology Volunteer Ministers; and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights Florida.

    For more information on how to participate, please contact Dylan at (727) 467-6860 or...

    Continued at
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  14. Quentinanon Member

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  15. Dee_Findlay_CL2-e1492738777112.jpg

    Former Scientologist, 80 year old Dee Findlay took on Scientology and spoke out against the Scientology abuses she witnessed and participated in as a 'volunteer' many years ago in Clearwater for this corrupt 'Church'. The City of Clearwater crowd was overwhelmingly opposed to selling to Scientology and strongly urged the City to purchase this critical parcel of land to try and save their City.

    You've got a lot of courage, Dee, thanks for speaking up:
    Dee 1 Scientology 0 (ZERO)
    • Like Like x 3
  16. The Wrong Guy Member

    For those not familiar with Monique Yingling, here's a search: Yingling

    You Paid For It: Scientology trying to kill $26 million Clearwater aquarium funding after land sale dispute

    By Mark Douglas, WFLA, April 25, 2017


    The Church of Scientology has declared an economic war on Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the stakes are high — $26 million in tourism tax funding that the church wants to block at Tuesday’s Pinellas County Commission meeting.

    The church’s anger stems from a land purchase dispute involving a dirt parking lot next to Clearwater City Hall. The aquarium recently defied the church by selling that land to the City of Clearwater on April 20 for $4.25 million and rejecting Scientology’s $15 million offer.

    City of Clearwater leaders want to develop the 1.4 acre parcel as part of its $50 million Imagine Clearwater plan to pump new life and commerce into the city’s downtown waterfront. The church wanted to buy the empty lot on the corner of Pierce St. and Osceola Ave. in order to build a pool and playground area for its Oak Cove religious retreat located next door. The church insists it is a critical element to its self-funded downtown development plan.

    A scathing letter sent to the Pinellas Commission Monday by Scientology Attorney Monique Yingling accuses Clearwater Marine Aquarium of fiscal foolhardiness and gouging taxpayers. “Astoundingly, CMA rejected $15 million in private funding, and is now essentially asking to recoup that amount from taxpayer funds,” Yingling wrote.

    The 7-page letter goes on to allege the aquarium is swimming in money due to the popularity of Winter the Dolphin and pays its CEO David Yates an exorbitant salary compared to other aquarium managers across the nation.

    Yingling’s letter also includes a report by USF Economics Professor Philip Porter that concludes the aquarium’s claims of economic impact, which form the basis of its $26 million tourist tax funding request, are grossly exaggerated and based on a study that includes a “massive and false claim.”

    “Because the study is biased and self-serving, its claims offer no good basis for decision-making and should be ignored,” Porter writes in an executive summary of his report.

    At Tuesday afternoon’s Pinellas County Commission meeting, commissioners will vote on a recommendation by Commission Chair Janet Long to fund the Clearwater Marine Aquarium $26 million over a 3-year period with proceeds from the county’s bed tax. Long’s memo calling for funding is based on a recommendation from the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council.

    According to TDC records, the bed tax funding will be used for the Clearwater aquarium’s planned expansion estimated to cost $53 million. The TDC study claims the Clearwater aquarium has a total annual economic impact of $674.7 million, a figure that the Church of Scientology and its experts vigorously dispute.

    The fireworks at the commission meeting will begin sometime after 2 p.m. on Tuesday. We will be there preparing a You Paid For It report for our 6 p.m. newscast on News Channel 8.


    Mark Douglas‏ @WFLAmark 11 minutes ago
    Scientology showdown w Clearwater Aquarium about to start at Pin. Commission over $26 million funding for CMA @WFLA – at Pinellas County Courthouse
  17. Mike Rinder: Scientology Clearwater Hissy Fit

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

    It did not take long for the smiling, glad-handing, magnanimous Miscavige to revert to form as the bully throwing a hissy fit because the minions did not kowtow and give in to his every wish.


    It is amazing to watch this unfold. Miscavige is being exposed to the world for what he really is. And finally, instead of just getting away with it because nobody dare incur his wrath, the mainstream media is shouting “the emperor has no clothes.”

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

  19. VIDEO: Church of Scientology asks for block to tourism funding l ABC Action News.

    Published on Apr 25, 2017

    Church of Scientology asks for block to tourism funding in Clearwater.
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  20. The Wrong Guy Member

    The report by Mark Douglas at WFLA that was quoted above has been updated to include:

    At Tuesday afternoon’s Pinellas County Commission meeting, commissioners unaninously voiced approval of the aquarium plans without actually taking a formal vote sent it to a committee to work out the details. Aquarium CEO said the aquarium is “moving forward” with its expansion plans and dismissed the church’s criticisms as “inflammatory and inappropriate.”

    Church spokesman Ben Shaw later told Eight on Your Side “Its not over yet,” and vowed to continue opposing public financial support of the aquarium as a bad deal for taxpayers. Clearwater City Council Member Hoyt Hamilton called the church’s opposition to aquarium funding a “bully tactic” after losing a bidding war last week with the city over the vacant lot and faulted the church for fostering a bad image of itself in the community.
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  21. The Wrong Guy Member

    Church of Scientology asks for block to tourism funding of Clearwater Marine Aquarium

    By Carson Chambers, WFTS-TV, April 25, 2017


    The CMA is under scrutiny from a neighbor. The Church of Scientology is lodging a formal complaint claiming the CMA doesn't deserve tourist tax funding. The complaint says the Aquarium's economic impact studies are 'unreliable and exaggerated.' It also claims the CMA rejected $15 million dollars in private funding and alleged its CEO is overpaid.

    "We refute everything in there. They're out of context. They're completely inaccurate," said CEO CMA David Yates.

    Pinellas County Commissioners voted to give the CMA a one time allocation of $26 million from the tourist development trust fund.

    CEO David Yates says the church complaint is an attempt to discredit the CMA after it sold a piece of property to the city -- a piece of property the Church of Scientology coveted and bid on.

    "I will simply say we sold our property to the city last Thursday, closed on Friday and this happens on Monday," said Yates.

    We asked to speak to the Church's media contact who declined to answer any questions about the complaint saying it speaks for itself.

    But Yates says he's ready to challenge every allegation with facts.

    "You don't go from 76 thousand people 10 years ago to 800 thousand people and not have a measurable impact. I mean that obviously brings, fills up hotel rooms, brings in people," he said.
  22. Scientology leaders say aquarium shouldn't get public funds.

    Fox 13 News: Scientology leaders say aquarium shouldn't get public funds

    Video at link.

    * * * * * BEGIN EXCERPT * * * *

    The Clearwater Marine Aquarium won a battle against the Church of Scientology in the chamber of the Clearwater City Council last week, and it seems the church will not let it go unnoticed.

    The church had its sights set on a plot of land owned by the aquarium at the corner of Osceola and Polk. The City of Clearwater was set to buy the land for $4.25 million, but the church offered $15 million: A deal the church thought the aquarium couldn't pass up. But the aquarium honored the deal it already made with the city, and the city went through with the purchase.

    Now the church is trying to convince Pinellas County commissioners not to approve tourism money for the aquarium, saying it must not need the cash since it turned down the church's offer.

    Scientology leaders say aquarium shouldn't get public funds

    Tuesday, commissioners approved the first step in sending $26 million in tourism dollars to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

    At the last minute, the Church of Scientology tried to convince commissioners to block the funds, saying the aquarium has no reason to ask for all that public money given they just turned down the church's much-larger offer.

    The church distributed documents alleging the aquarium's economic impact is overstated, and that the CEO makes too high of a salary for a non-profit.


    Commissioners approved the money anyway.

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

    Scientology retaliates against Clearwater land deal by trying to shiv a beloved dolphin

    By Rod Keller, The Underground Bunker, April 26, 2017


    Yesterday in Florida, the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners met to discuss, among other matters, a windfall of cash. The county has almost $86 million that has been collected in a tourist tax, and the state mandates that the money be spent on a sort of wish list — capital improvement projects that otherwise wouldn’t get funding. So, during its meeting yesterday, the board was hearing from applicants who were in line to receive the money, such as the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team, which plays its spring training in Pinellas County. Team president Mark Shapiro was even on hand to encourage the commissioners to approve $46.5 million in funding to help the team improve its Dunedin stadium.

    The second largest share of the cash — $26 million — is slated for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to help it complete a major expansion, but during the meeting no one from the public took the opportunity to speak for or against it.

    We expected that someone might speak against the aquarium funding because just the day before, the Church of Scientology had delivered to the county commissioners a vicious attack on the aquarium in the form of a seven-page letter from Scientology attorney Monique Yingling.

    Yingling accused the aquarium of fabricating claims about the economic benefits it provides the county. She said that the aquarium was breaching its obligation as a non-profit organization, and she called for a government investigation of aquarium officials. She said that the aquarium overpays its Chief Executive Officer, David Yates, and that it fails to pay taxes on items purchased at its gift shop. “The stench of commerciality pervades its operations,” Yingling wrote. “The Commission should consider all of these relevant facts before making a decision to provide additional millions of dollars from the Tourist Development Trust to the CMA.”

    The aquarium is best known for being home to Winter the dolphin, star of Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2 and a beloved figure to children everywhere. But for some reason, Scientology doesn’t want Winter’s facility to get county money for its expansion.

    We asked aquarium CEO David Yates about Yingling’s accusations. “This letter is false, inflammatory, out of context and provably false,” he said. “It is unfortunate that the church chooses to attack CMA, a top rated nonprofit and community asset a few days after we sold our downtown property to the City. We are considering all options and will clearly respond one way or another.”


    We watched the meeting closely to see if Yingling’s attack had any effect.

    But when the subject of the $26 million for the aquarium came up, the commissioners expressed universal praise for the facility, and also praised CEO Yates for communicating with them so reliably.

    Then, Vice Chair Kenneth Welch made the only allusion to the Scientology attack.

    “I got a whole box of documentation yesterday,” he said. “That’s not good timing.” That was echoed by Chairwoman Janet Long, who said, “Yes, we make these decisions way ahead of time.” And with that, the board moved that the payment proposal continue to the next step, so county staff can negotiate terms with the aquarium as it moves to a final vote.

    Scientology’s smear hadn’t slowed it down at all.

    Miscavige’s purpose in this sneak attack is clear. Having lost the battle at the city level, Miscavige is retaliating the only way Scientology knows how — by following L. Ron Hubbard’s playbook. Expect more interference to come.

    More at
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  24. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology lodges complaint against Clearwater Marine Aquarium | Creative Loafing Tampa

    Here's the relevant excerpt:

    Just a few days after losing a bid to buy a downtown parking lot owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium that went to the city instead, the Church of Scientology has tried to block the CMA's tourism funding with a complaint that alleges inflated impact claims and financial mismanagement. The CMA is calling the complaint retaliatory harassment; we're not saying that's true, but the timing could be seen as suspect. Also, the words "Scientology," "legal action" and "campaign to discredit" seem to show up in close proximity to one another only slightly less often than "happy" and "hour," or "kids" and "eat" and "free."

  25. The Wrong Guy Member

    Church of Scientology takes aim at Clearwater Marine Aquarium after being denied land | Tampa Bay Times

    By Tracey McManus, Times Staff Writer, April 27, 2017


    The Church of Scientology has launched a statewide campaign blasting the ethics and financial practices of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a move that follows the aquarium's recent decision not to sell the church a prized downtown property.

    On Monday, one day before the Pinellas County Commission gave initial approval to the aquarium's request for $26 million of bed tax dollars, the church delivered to the board a scathing, seven-page letter and more than 250 pages of supporting documentation questioning the nonprofit's economic impact and financial responsibility.

    The "formal complaint" — also sent to Attorney General Pam Bondi, the state auditor general and legislative leaders — is not going unchallenged by aquarium CEO David Yates.

    "We want to be good neighbors to everybody, but we don't intend to be bullied at the same time," Yates said Wednesday. "Everything they wrote is either false, completely out of context or inflammatory."


    In her letter to the county, Monique Yingling, a top church attorney who assisted Scientology in securing its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 1993, said the aquarium is "essentially asking to recoup" from taxpayers the millions it turned down from the church's offer.

    Yingling said the aquarium has repeatedly depended on public funding despite bringing in $88 million in revenue over the past five years. She cited $8.8 million in "in-kind property, grants and other funding from the city of Clearwater." But Yates said that number is unfounded.

    Other than a $750,000 contribution in 2008, "we do not get any routine grants from the city," Yates said.

    Yingling also said Yates' salary calls "into serious question the propriety of its request for additional taxpayer funding." She said Yates' $1.8 million in compensation over the past five years, and $529,468 in 2015 alone, shows "a substantial portion of the public funding received by the CMA already has gone into the pockets of its CEO and other executives."

    Yates said that analysis is misconstrued. Although he received $529,468 in 2015, about a fourth of that was "a one-time makeup retirement pay" from benefits withheld during leaner years.

    Paul Auslander, vice chair of the aquarium's board of directors, said Yates' salary is calculated through both his performance and comparing pay scales of similar organizations nationwide.

    "He's well compensated for this area, but he's at the high or middle end of the averages for organizations that have similar revenue flows that we do," Auslander said.

    Church spokesman Ben Shaw did not respond to an email from the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday inquiring about the pay of Scientology leader David Miscavige.

    The thrust of the church's complaint is that the aquarium submitted "frivolous, speculative and unsubstantiated financial projections" as a basis for its bed tax funding request. Yingling wrote that the church has "a compelling interest in the disbursement" of the funds because it has paid $7.5 million in tourist tax payments since 2010.

    The church hired University of South Florida professor of economics Philip Porter to analyze the aquarium's prior economic impact studies, and he reported 93 percent of the direct financial impact claimed by the aquarium cannot be verified.

    Porter said he conducted "independent blind surveys" of aquarium patrons and debunked the nonprofit's claim that 72.7 percent of all its visitors come to Clearwater "solely because they are attracted by the aquarium."

    Yates said this is another mistaken interpretation. A 2012 study by University of South Florida St. Petersburg's College of Business found 72.7 percent of aquarium patrons said the Dolphin Tale movie was the primary driver of their visit — the aquarium has never claimed to be the sole driver of guests' visits to the area.

    "The question (Porter) asks implies, 'Were we the sole reason that guests came to (Clearwater)?' and we never claimed that," Yates said. "Our questions were very clear: 'Were we the main or primary motivating factor for you coming to our area?' That's also what we put in our report to the county. We never claimed we were the sole reason."

    And while the church alleges the aquarium should have paid unrelated business income tax on $23 million of souvenir shop sales over the past five years, the nonprofit's tax returns were audited and issued the highest level of assurance, CPA Matt Schaeffer confirmed to the Times.

    No Scientology official spoke against the aquarium's funding request during the public comment section of Tuesday's County Commission meeting.

    Commission Chair Janet Long said the effort was "too little too late" and a clear retaliation by the church for the city buying land it coveted.

    "That's how the Scientologists operate," Long said. "It's very clear, coming on the heels of the City Council (vote), that their noses are out of joint and they are upset about it and they are trying to intimidate county government."

    Commissioner Ken Welch said he still hasn't had time to review the hundreds of pages of documents that were hand delivered 24 hours before Tuesday's vote.

    Yates said the sale of the aquarium's land to the city was a show of commitment to a long-standing partnership rather than an affront to the church. The church's reaction, he said, was unwarranted.

    "We didn't get into this to have an argument with anybody," Yates said. "When we had property to sell, we sold the property to our partner. That's it. … We're very disappointed in the approach the church has taken in this regard. It didn't need to be done, and it's unfortunate, but our desire is we do our work and we do our mission and we move on."

    Here's the complete article:
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  26. The Wrong Guy Member

    The article above is also published here, with open comments:

    Here's a new article, published today:

    Church of Scientology takes on Clearwater aquarium | FOX 13 Tampa Bay

    By Dan Matics, FOX 13 News


    The church claims the aquarium does not act as a nonprofit like it claims. It says the aquarium shouldn't receive $26 million in bed tax money from the county, especially after it turned down millions in private funds from the church.

    "There's a real issue here over the use of taxpayer funds," the church’s attorney, Monique Yingling told FOX 13 News.

    Yingling said the accusation that the church is retaliating for the loss of the land isn’t true.

    "We feel like they are absolutely trying to bully us, without a doubt,” Yates said. “We are not their enemy. The fact is we simply sold the property to the city because they're a partner and they asked to buy it."

    The church also questions Yates’ salary, which comes to $1.8 million over the last five years. Yates says that's in line with similar nonprofit aquariums.

    We asked Yingling if the church would publicly disclose how much the church’s leader, David Miscavage makes.

    “Well, I can tell you he doesn't make a fraction of what David Yates is paid, and the church is probably a hundred times bigger than the Clearwater Marine Aquarium," Yingling said.


    "This is probably a low point in our relationship with the church," Mayor George Cretekos said.

    More at
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  27. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium responds to Church of Scientology's attack | Tampa Bay Times

    By David Yates and John Draheim

    [David Yates is the CEO of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. John Draheim is the aquarium board's chair.]


    The Church of Scientology went out of its way last week to disparage the good reputation and hard work of our popular Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Perhaps not coincidentally, this comes after the aquarium refused to break its written commitment and decided to sell a piece of property we owned in downtown Clearwater to the city instead of the church.

    The Scientologists' attack on us was mean-spirited, vindictive and misleading to anyone not aware of the facts. We want to set the record straight by sharing the documented facts and truth about the aquarium and its track record of protecting and growing our mission as a venerable marine rescue and education center.

    The decision to sell the downtown parcel to the city of Clearwater came after two years of discussions with the city. The parcel we sold is planned for use as part of a $55 million waterfront revitalization of downtown Clearwater, which includes redeveloping the land for a possible hotel as well as new downtown residences.

    For us, the sale of the property comes in the middle of our own $54 million campaign to renovate the aquarium's facilities on Island Estates. Both of the ambitious projects are directed squarely at making the highest and best use of public space — something that will benefit all the residents of our area, in addition to our tourists. Scientology's stated intention for the land, which borders their Oak Cove religious retreat, was to build a swimming pool and playground and other amenities exclusively for church parishioners.

    Days after we completed the sale of the downtown property to the city on April 21, Scientology sent a long, scathing letter to Pinellas County commissioners with copies to the Clearwater City Council as well as others, questioning the impact the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has on regional economic development and calling into question our nonprofit status.

    All of this came on the first business day after we closed on our sale of the property to the city and the day before the Pinellas County Commission met to consider the aquarium's portion of bed tax dollars paid by county visitors — primarily tourists, not residents — whose presence in downtown Clearwater is an economic boon to the area. Indeed, a previous study conducted by the University of South Florida St. Petersburg College of Business found nearly 73 percent of aquarium patrons said it was one of the main reasons for their visit to Pinellas County.

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a successful nonprofit marine rescue center that cares for hundreds of animals each year, attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists annually and reaches millions each year through its various media platforms that showcase Clearwater. We are pleased to do our part to drive tourism and contribute to our area's economy.

    As a nonprofit, we are good stewards of all of our funds — public and private. The aquarium is funded substantially by ticket sales and has received no financial grants from the city of Clearwater since 2010. It also receives no grant funds from Pinellas County for its general operations. County funding is solely for our sea turtle nesting work and production support for our Web series performed pursuant to contracts with the county.

    Further, the salaries of our staff and leadership are all benchmarked — and are in line with — similar organizations of our size and scope. In fact, Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent evaluator of charities, ranks the Clearwater Marine Aquarium among the top 4 percent of all nonprofits nationally and has so for the past six years.

    Despite the Scientologists' disparagement, our financial records have been professionally audited and certified and are open to the public. Our tax filings are accurate and timely. We pay every tax we owe, and we retain skilled tax and audit experts to make sure this is done year after year. These are the facts.

    The Clearwater Marine Aquarium did not seek to slight or pick a fight with the Church of Scientology when we sold our downtown land to the city instead of the church. Instead, we believe we did the right thing for the aquarium and for the residents of Clearwater and Pinellas County through that sale. The aquarium does not wish to quarrel with its neighbors, but the church, along with all of our neighbors, has the right to the documented facts and the truth.

    Source, and comments:
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  28. Quentinanon Member

    Clearly, the scientology crrime syndicate has declared the Clearwater Marine Aquarium a suppressive group and David Yates the main "SP" and "Who". The Fair Game campaign against Yates has begun. Their spokeshole is shyster attorney Monique Yingling who is trying to ruin Yates utterly. Psychopath Davey Miscavige didn't get his way, so this is his drawn out "little Hitler" tantrum.
  29. fify
  30. The Internet Member

  31. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology's problems on Clearwater land deal are of its own making | Tampa Bay Times

    By John Romano


    Frankly, I don't think most people care about Scientology's religious doctrines, auditing exercises or past life theories. Pretty much every religion requires its own peculiar leaps of faith.

    This is about Scientology's reputation in the community. And that's a mess.

    Scientology has invited almost all of its problems with an aggressive, vindictive and bullying manner when it comes to dealing with anyone questioning the church's mission.

    That includes elected officials, journalists, former members and even parents, children and siblings who are outside the church.

    Defending your religion is entirely understandable. Hiring private detectives or conducting smear campaigns — and there seems to be ample evidence that this happens routinely — is something completely different.

    Does the church have a right to be disappointed by the aquarium's land sale? Of course it does. Does it have a right to question how a non-profit could ignore the huge difference in offers? Absolutely.

    But it seemed counterproductive to deliver an extensive and accusatory portfolio to the Pinellas County Commission that aquarium officials contend was rife with half-truths.

    Commission chair Janet Long said it was ironic that the church accused the aquarium of acting in bad faith after Scientology officials assured her more than a year ago that they were not buying additional land in downtown Clearwater, only to snatch up numerous parcels under the guise of anonymous corporations.

    "They are not honorable, trustworthy partners,'' Long said. "They intimidate. They bully. They lie. Those are not qualities you normally think of when you're talking about a church.''

    More at
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  32. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology fires again at Clearwater aquarium and calls county commissioner ‘shameful’

    By Tony Ortega, May 3, 2017


    After picking a fight with a dolphin, the Church of Scientology has called for a county board’s cooperation by calling that board “shameful.”

    It’s another genius move by Scientology leader David Miscavige and his attorney, Monique Yingling, who have followed up a previous letter to the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners with a new 7-page broadside in the wake of a land deal involving the city of Clearwater, Florida that has left the church bitter and in a mood to retaliate.


    On Monday, Yingling sent a new letter to the board, which turned over a copy of it to us on our request. Yingling called the column by Yates and Draheim “evasive” and repeated the church’s complaint that Yates is paid too much for the CEO of a non-profit.

    She called it “incumbent” on the county board to investigate the aquarium’s finances before awarding it the $26 million tourist tax windfall, specifically pointing at Yates’ salary and comparing it to the CEO pay of other nonprofits in the area, and she positioned the church as whistleblowers.

    “The Church should be thanked rather than criticized for doing the work the Board and TDC [Tourist Development Council] should have done in the first place.”

    Yingling cites numerous ways that the aquarium has benefited from city giveaways, and with the help of a University of South Florida professor Yingling complains that the aquarium has exaggerated its economic impact in the future.

    Wait a minute. A business based on attracting visitors is being optimistic in its projections of future growth?

    We’re shocked, we tell you. Simply shocked.

    But then it’s the church that produces the only real howler here.

    Yingling refers to commission chair Janet Long, who had told the Tampa Bay Times that the church had said to her it wasn’t going to buy any more downtown land, only to do so secretly in recent months. Here’s Yingling’s explanation of those purchases. Please, make sure you don’t have any food or liquid in your mouth before you read this:

    “The Church’s recent downtown property purchases were not for the Church campus, but for the benefit of downtown redevelopment….”

    After you digest that one, we’ll continue.

    She says it was “to attract retail outlets, including a potential theater and entertainment center. The Church made these purchases as part of its contribution in partnering with the City as recommended by the Urban Land Institute study, and in response to the City’s request that the Church assist with redevelopment of the downtown.”

    Suuuuuure. And that’s why the church bought the city’s largest office tower. For a movie house or something.

    And yet, even though Long was correct, that these purchases were made after the church had assured her they weren’t going to continue buying properties, Yingling calls Long’s reactions “frankly scandalous. Ms. Long and the entire Commission should be ashamed.”

    Yes, the board should have realized when Scientology secretly bought the city’s biggest skyscraper after promising not to buy any more property that it was doing it for the best interests of everyone.

    Shame! Shame!

    The only reason the church is suddenly so interested in the aquarium’s finances has nothing to do with the aquarium spurning Scientology’s interest in its downtown parcel, Yingling claims. Oh no, it’s purely because the church has the interest of taxpayers in mind. (And sure, although the church today considers the aquarium to be a highly questionable and sketchy bunch of scammers, it’s totally not relevant that just a couple of weeks ago Scientology was itching to give these scumbags a cool 15 mil.)

    Yingling writes that Long should be especially ashamed because her comments came as Scientology was holding “cordial and transparent” meetings about the city’s future.

    Yes, those transparent meetings at which the public was specifically not invited, and that David Miscavige had with city council members individually so they wouldn’t have to be recorded publicly.

    The transparency, it’s blinding.

    And now, Yingling’s letter really lays it on thick, so we hope you’re wearing boots:

    We work with City staff on a regular basis, and do volunteer work with the Clearwater Police Department cleaning up neighborhoods. We sponsor regular family-friendly block parties on Cleveland Street featuring entertainment, rides for the children, and free food. Last year we partnered with the City in covering 50 percent of the cost of the new Veterans Memorial at Crest Lake Park. The prior year we contributed the cost and manpower to bring the Martin Luther King Community Center back to life. We sponsor massive human rights and drug education programs in the community. Just last Saturday night the Fort Harrison auditorium hosted drug abuse professionals from around Florida. Th Church sponsors a Tampa Bay-wide coalition of 150 charities, and provides the Fort Harrison as a venue free of charge to an average of two charitable organizations a week.

    On the other hand, here’s what the FBI says is going on at Scientology’s “Sea Org” bases behind the scenes, as was reported this morning:

    Based on interviews of former Sea org members (hereinafter Complainants), the Church of Scientology (COS) tricks young Scientologists into joining the Sea Org, promising good salaries, regular work hours, vacation and family visits. However, once Sea Org members begin their service, they are housed and held at secure locations where they work 15 hour days in various positions for Scientology-based companies. Sea Org members are given no days off, and are permitted only limited and monitored contact with anyone outside the camps where they live and work.

    Hm. Pillar of the community? Or deceitful manipulator of slave labor? That’s a tough one.

    Yingling then spins the situation not as Scientology retaliating because it didn’t get a piece of land it wanted, but as a whistleblower doing what any good citizen would.

    And after saying the board chairman should be ashamed of herself for calling the church on its subterfuge, we’re sure this letter will go over big with the other commissioners.

    We sent a message to board chair Janet Long to ask her if she’s feeling any “shame” for calling out Scientology’s secret land purchases. We’ll let you know if she gets back to us.

    Here’s the letter:

    More here:
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  33. tippytoe Member

    When they are in a hole, they just keep digging. :rolleyes:
  34. Jeff Jacobsen Member

    Time for protesting in Clearwater again?
  35. Is Speaker of the Florida House Richard Corcoran siding with Scientology against the Clearwater Marine Aquarium?

    Politico: Tourist tax vote has Corcoran eyeing fight between Clearwater aquarium, Scientologists

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

    By MATT DIXON 05/04/17 05:23 AM EDT

    TALLAHASSEE — As he continues his fight against taxpayer-funded economic development, House Speaker Richard Corcoran is considering stepping into an ongoing battle between the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Church of Scientology.

    The aquarium has gotten worldwide attention because it's home to Winter, a dolphin that lost its tail after getting it caught in a crab trap in 2005. It starred in the movies Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, which has brought fame and merchandising revenue to the aquarium.

    Corcoran is eyeing a recent decision by the Pinellas County Commission to give $26 million in tourism development taxes to the aquarium. The money is being doled out over three years to help fund an expansion.

    The issue has been a long stewing local fight as the Church of Scientology, which has a huge presence in Clearwater, lobbied commissioners hard to not give the green light to the funding.

    “We’ve received information that raises some questions,” said Fred Piccolo, Corcoran’s communications director on Wednesday. “The speaker will be briefed after budget negotiations are complete and we will determine further action at that time.”

    “He remains fully committed to ensuring all tax dollars — including tourist taxes — are spent appropriately,” he said.

    David Yates, the aquarium’s chief executive officer, said he is “not aware” of Corcoran’s interest in the funding issue.

    “CMA is one of the highest rated and best-known non-profits in the country,” he said via email to POLITICO Florida. “We are always glad to answer any questions elected officials might have.”

    The issue came to Corcoran’s attention after attorneys for the church circulated hundreds of pages of documents outlining what it says is a misuse of funds, a contention the aquarium has fought. The church sent the packet of documents to both local and state officials, including Corcoran, Senate President Joe Negron and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    “It is the duty of the board to every citizen of Pinellas County to weigh this information before it embarks on handout of this magnitude of taxpayer’s funds,” wrote Monique Yingling, a church attorney, in a seven-page letter that accompanied the documents.
    Among the many things they highlight is the $529,000 Yates earned in 2015, and the fact that the aquarium turned down the church’s $15 million offer to buy a 1.4 acre piece of land owned by the aquarium, which sold the property to the City of Clearwater for $4 million.

    * * * * * END EXCERPT * * * * *
  36. Peter Schorsch comments.

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  37. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology's uniformed Sea Org staff clearly absent from downtown Clearwater | Tampa Bay Times

    By Tracey McManus, May 5, 2017


    There's been a glaring shift in the everyday image that has defined the city's downtown for decades.

    The small army of uniformed Scientologists who bustle all day between church buildings and file on and off the church's Flag buses is nowhere in sight.

    While Sea Org staff members in their distinctive slacks and buttoned vests sometimes outnumber the general public, there were nearly none on Cleveland Street shortly after 9 Thursday morning.

    After the city's recent purchase of a 1.4-acre vacant lot coveted by the church, Scientology this week enacted an apparent boycott of downtown, instructing Sea Org staff not to patronize shops on Cleveland Street, according to Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor.

    "We started hearing from merchants earlier this week that they noticed a slow down in business, and they heard from Sea Org members they were instructed not to patronize Cleveland Street," Taylor said. "It seems to be the mom and pops that are suffering the most."

    Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw said in a statement to the Times that "there is absolutely not any boycott of downtown by either staff or parishioners" and that the church has received queries in the past few months about whether staff could wear a different uniform or none at all.

    Shaw said the constant complaints about the uniforms are "frustrating," and the church wants to avoid any cause for complaints.

    "We wish to avoid doing anything that would upset anybody," Shaw said. "If you don't recognize staff, it is because they aren't in uniform when frequenting downtown.''

    Lina Teixeira, owner of Studio 617 on Cleveland Street, said at Wednesday's Downtown Development Board meeting that merchants "are feeling under duress" as a result of the church's "boycott."

    She said parishioners told her the church is reacting to recent complaints that uniformed Sea Org staffers' conspicuous presence discourages the general public from coming downtown.

    The fact remains we are the collateral damage," Teixeira said about the effect on local businesses.

    Mayor George Cretekos said he is not aware of any city official asking church leaders to discontinue uniforms but said the impact the Sea Org's visual presence has on downtown's vibe has been discussed over the years.

    Cretekos said visitors who are not familiar with the religious garb "think it is a military presence" in Clearwater. He said it would be unfortunate if the church has instructed parishioners to avoid downtown to make a statement to city officials.

    "This is not a good way of building bridges,'' Cretekos said.

    Continued at

    The ghosts have left the ghost town

    By Tony Ortega,m May 5, 2017


    Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times has a piece on the latest development in Clearwater — Scientology’s latest act of retaliation over losing out on a land deal downtown is that its Sea Org members are apparently boycotting businesses on Cleveland Street.

    Clay Irwin at the Lucky Anchor Pub tells us he had noticed the sudden and total absence of Sea Org on the streets downtown. But we have to wonder, will it really impact businesses much that the Scientologists, who are paid pennies an hour when they are paid at all, will not be spending money in Clearwater?

    Continued at
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  38. The Wrong Guy Member

    Is Church of Scientology withholding business from local merchants? | WTSP


    We headed down to Cleveland Street during the lunch hour, to see whether there were Scientologist, often in their familiar uniforms, heading to the local restaurants and cafés.

    You'll hear from store owners, and what they've seen over the past couple of weeks coming up on 10 News beginning at 5 PM.
    • Like Like x 1
  39. Richard Corcoran insists he's not getting in the middle of Scientology vs. Clearwater Aquarium

    Florida Politics: Richard Corcoran insists he's not getting in the middle of Scientology vs. Clearwater Aquarium

    By Peter Schorsch

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

    Fortunately, the Speaker’s Office insists it is not taking sides in the Scientology vs. CMA scrum.

    “This has nothing to do with Scientology,” said Fred Piccolo, Corcoran’s communications director. “This is about the stewardship of public dollars.”

    Piccolo reiterated the comments he provided to POLITICO Florida.

    “We’ve received information that raises some questions,” Piccolo said Wednesday. “The Speaker will be briefed after budget negotiations are complete and we will determine further action at that time.”

    “He remains fully committed to ensuring all tax dollars — including tourist taxes — are spent appropriately,” he said.

    Part of the issue here, if you know the history of the funding for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, is that it is a pet project of Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala.

    In 2013, Latvala and other local lawmakers directed $5 million dollars the aquarium’s way to pay for production and marketing associated with filming “Dolphin Tale 2.”

    In 2014, the aquarium received another dollop of state money. Dixon reports that there is another $1 million slated for the facility in next year’s budget.

    Additionally, in 2013, Latvala tweaked the state’s Tourist Development Tax law to allow county bed tax dollars to be used for aquariums, opening the door for Clearwater Marine Aquarium to seek additional funds through the county.

    Money from that fund is what Scientology is asking Corcoran to examine.

    “It is the duty of the board to every citizen of Pinellas County to weigh this information before it embarks on [a] handout of this magnitude of taxpayer’s funds,” wrote Monique Yingling, a church attorney, in a seven-page letter that accompanied the documents, according to Dixon.

    An economic impact study conducted earlier this year concluded that the aquarium had pumped $2 billion into the local economy since 2011.

    Still, there’s nothing wrong with the Speaker keeping close tabs on taxpayers’ money, especially since he has assured us he’s not playing favorites.

    After all, Richard Corcoran would hate to be accused of picking winners and losers.

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

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