Daily Mail: "Scientology town Clearwater"

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

  1. Quentinanon Member

    If David Miscavige is so concerned about the WOGs at the Aquarium getting $26 million after they turned down his $15 million, and not feeling comfortable in Clearwater, in the interest of efficient use of "church" funds, the scientology crime syndicate should move their operations out of Clearwater to the Int Base where they have plenty of room for expansion, better security and no WOGs to deal with.
  2. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology in Ruins? Sea Org Vanishes From Clearwater, Florida?

    By Ester Antonio, Inquisitr


    Clearwater, Fla. Is used to having these Sea Org members in suits walking around all day along Cleveland Street towards Fort Harrison Avenue because this is where the Church of Scientology is located. However, over the past weeks, fewer members have been spotted around.

    According to Tampa Bay Times, the Sea Org members would sometimes outnumber the passersby on the street. It was not until last Thursday that the streets cleared up.

    Community Redevelopment Agency Director Seth Taylor said that there is a possibility Sea Org instructed their members to boycott the shops on Cleveland Street.

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  3. The Wrong Guy Member

    ‘Source’ magazine offers a glimpse into what goes on at Scientology’s Florida ‘mecca’

    By Tony Ortega, May 27, 2017

    Excerpt: a Scientologist, you have the right to donate money to the next monument in David Miscavige’s MEST collection:


    We also love the subtlety of Source magazine. Take this pimp for New OT 4. Who wouldn’t be excited for becoming “free from the effects of drugs”? Sounds great, doesn’t it?


    It’s a shame they don’t explain that on New OT 4, you’ll be paying about $10,000 to free not your own body from drugs, but the invisible space junkies that are attached to you as “body thetans” who were abusing drugs millions of years ago in other galaxies. We are not kidding.

    (And it sure would be interesting if someone could ask Greta Van Susteren about this, as we’ve pointed out in the past.)

    Yes, there are some pretty unusual processes that people do at the Flag Land Base, and they’re not only weird, they’re not cheap. One of our favorite is what’s done on the massive sixth floor of the Flag Building (also known as the “Super Power Building”) which is a domed space surrounding a lighted column. Scientologists pay about $2,500 to spend hours running around that lighted pole in the center of the room.


    That’s what the “Cause Resurgence Rundown” is, running around a pole for hours until you have some kind of “cognition” or epiphany. (Supposedly something besides, “Am I crazy for paying for running around a pole?”)

    More at
  4. The Wrong Guy Member

  5. The Wrong Guy Member

    As Scientology coverage blows up, get ready for major network attention on Clearwater

    By Tony Ortega, May 31, 2017


    ...amid all of this swirling drama, there’s an unlikely figure who is getting more and more attention for being in the eye of the storm: Tavernkeeper Clay Irwin, who seemingly had no idea what he was walking into when he started up an Irish pub, the Lucky Anchor, on Cleveland Street at the beginning of the year.

    We’ve written about Clay’s hilarious impromptu tour of Cruise’s unfinished palace. And how he was subsequently snubbed when Miscavige invited Cleveland Street business and property owners to hobnob with Scientology celebs John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, and Kelly Preston. (Though Irwin gained some measure of satisfaction when he ran into Preston while walking around town, as can be seen in the photo above.)

    Irwin has now posted on his Facebook page that he’s in great demand from the networks, which are apparently digging into the Clearwater story. Last Thursday he was interviewed by NBC’s Lester Holt for Dateline, and ABC is knocking on his door next. But what he didn’t say on Facebook was that his rising press stardom has Scientology in something of a panic.

    “A half hour before the NBC interview, they called me, trying to get me to cancel it,” he told us in a phone call yesterday. How, we wondered, did Scientology think it could convince him to spurn Dateline at such a late hour?

    “They offered to send the celebrities to my bar so I could get some attention for it,” he said.

    Irwin turned them down.

    And this is what it has come to. In its spiritual mecca, Scientology’s once-legendary slate of celebrities aren’t glamorous enough to charm a bar owner out of his big chance for network exposure.

    Wow, that’s gotta hurt.

    More at
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  6. Quentinanon Member

    Clay Irwin is a loyal officer of the Marcabian Fleet and the scilons never guessed we could plant a base in the midst of their base.
    Party on Marcabia!

    • Like Like x 1
  7. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater in negotiations with Scientology for land swap | Tampa Bay Times

    By Tracey McManus, June 1, 2017


    Two months after the Church of Scientology lost out to the city on buying a crucial downtown property it needed for its campus, church leaders are now negotiating a land swap to fulfill both parties' redevelopment needs.

    The City Council is scheduled June 14 to vote on whether to trade three city-owned properties, two being small parcels around the footprint of the proposed L. Ron Hubbard Hall at S Fort Harrison Avenue and Court Street, in exchange for a vacant lot east of downtown the city needs for parking for the retail portion of the Nolen apartment complex.

    Scientology is under contract to buy the vacant lot adjacent to the Nolen for $625,000 from a company managed by developer Guy Bonneville with an agreement to then swap the property for the three city parcels, according to the contract.

    Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor said when the city inquired about buying the lot directly from Bonneville's company in September, Bonneville conveyed he would sell the lot to the city only for "well above the assessed value."

    When reached by the Times Tuesday, Bonneville declined to comment on the negotiations or whether he offered Scientology a better deal than the city. Bonneville is also the manager of his father-in-law's company that owns the Times Clearwater bureau building at 1130 Cleveland St.

    Along with the two parcels surrounding the proposed L. Ron Hubbard Hall site in the land swap, Scientology would also acquire the city's citation processing center at 28 N Garden Ave. adjacent to the Garden Street parking garage.

    City Manager Bill Horne said the land swap would save taxpayers money because the value of the three parcels is far below the price of what the city would pay if it bought the vacant lot for the Nolen directly through Bonneville at his inflated price.

    The value of the city's three parcels total $425,000, according to appraisals ordered by the city in February. The city also obtained an appraisal of Bonneville's vacant lot adjacent to the Nolen, which is valued at $600,000.

    "We're making what we believe to be the best business decision," Horne said. "I realize there's a lot of people that are going to try to interpret what's going on to mean all types of different things. But the church had been interested in the city properties for a while and we found a good way to address what our needs are and what they wanted. We don't really have an overarching need for those parcels."

    The City Council was scheduled to discuss the land swap at its work session Tuesday, but Horne and Taylor said the item was pulled because church officials hadn't returned their calls or emails for two months and they were unclear of the status of the deal. The silence followed the city's April 20 purchase of a 1.4-acre vacant lot from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for $4.25 million. The church had offered the aquarium $15 million for the site, which borders its 13-story Oak Cove religious retreat and is across the street from City Hall.

    Horne said Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw called him Tuesday after the city's work session to arrange a meeting.

    Continued at

    Clearwater land swap with Scientology

    By Tony Ortega, June 1, 2017

    Tampa Bay Times reporter Tracey McManus has a new piece today about a land swap being considered between the city of Clearwater, Florida and the Church of Scientology. No, the swap does not involve the 1.4-acre parcel the two were just wrestling over a couple of months ago, so calm down.

    But Mayor George Cretekos did admit to McManus that he’s not entirely comfortable with the idea of swapping parcels with the church so soon after the bruising fight they all just went through, and good for him.

    We talked to Cretekos recently and asked him what we were asked by many readers: What would keep the city from selling the City Hall-adjacent parcel that the city paid the Clearwater Marine Aquarium $4.25 million for, but that Scientology leader David Miscavige had said he would fork over up to $15 million to own? Cretekos assured us that he was committed to the city’s “Imagine Clearwater” plan, which is why it bought the land from the aquarium.

    Eventually, he told us, the city would produce a “request for proposal” regarding the 1.4-acre parcel — outlining specific desires for how they wanted the land used — and then open the bidding to anyone, including the church itself. But even if the church did offer a bid, it would have to abide by the RFP and deliver what the city wants for the land use.

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  8. The Wrong Guy Member

    NBC proves that it still has no idea when it comes to Scientology

    By Tony Ortega, June 4, 2017


    On Wednesday we told you to expect the big national networks to get into the Clearwater land story because it was so easy for them — a public land purchase, public records, and officials willing to go on the record.

    Cleveland Street tavernkeeper Clay Irwin told us he was interviewed by NBC’s Lester Holt for what he thought would be a segment on Dateline. Instead, what aired was a 2-minute piece on the nightly news about the land deal. Irwin didn’t make the cut.

    But that’s not why he’s fuming mad after it aired. What bugs him is that NBC somehow flipped the script to make Scientology not the bully in the story, but the victim. Here, take a look:

    With help from Scientology attorney Monique Yingling, the network framed the story as one of Scientology being discriminated against when its huge $15 million offer for a piece of dirt was ignored. What the network didn’t tell you is that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s plans to use that land for a downtown expansion was undermined by the church. That’s why the aquarium had a vacant lot to sell, because Scientology had gone out of its way to ruin the aquarium’s hard work to make a downtown wing happen.

    And that’s why, anyone should be able to see, that the aquarium was not interested in rewarding Scientology for its bullying behavior by handing over that prime piece of real estate to the church. Not when the city had plans for it that might actually, all these years after Scientology’s original underhanded invasion, begin to resuscitate the dead downtown.

    The aquarium, by selling that parcel to the city for its assessed value ($4.25 million) stood up for the people of Clearwater and spurned Scientology’s $15 million offer for what would be another off-limits crowd-killer.

    How do you turn that story into one in which Scientology was victimized by discrimination? Apparently, some networks are still shitting their pants when it comes to covering the Church of Scientology. What a shame.

  9. The Wrong Guy Member

    Church of Scientology Accuses Florida City of Discrimination Over Land Battle

    B y Kerry Sanders and Xuan Thai, NBC News


    In this small beachside community sits a 1.4-acre patch of dirt that has become a flash point in a fight between church and state.

    The Church of Scientology offered $15 million to buy the vacant piece of land in the city's downtown from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The city of Clearwater offered $4.25 million. But somehow, the city in April still won the bidding war — and now the church is claiming bias played a role.

    "I think that there was religious discrimination with respect to the church. That the city somehow made this into a Scientology issue, when it did not need to be," the Church of Scientology's attorney, Monique Yingling, told NBC News. "For some reason, the city wanted to keep that property out of the hands of the church."

    City officials want the land for a larger downtown restoration plan and reportedly considered partnering with the church to redevelop downtown. The officials vigorously deny that they sought to undermine the sale in any way.

    "It's such a silly argument — it's offensive," said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.

    Suspicion and mistrust between local government and the church dates back to the 1970s, when Scientology — then under the late founder L. Ron Hubbard — quietly bought an old 11-story hotel in downtown Clearwater and renovated it into its spiritual headquarters.

    Known locally as the Flag Land Base, or "Flag," the building takes up an entire city block in Clearwater's downtown district. Since then, the church has scooped up dozens of properties throughout the area as part of a sprawling complex of buildings and a patchwork of parcels.

    "When they redevelop a property it looks beautiful. They do a good job in that. They go out into our neighborhoods and provide some volunteer services, which is also very well-received," Cretekos said. "But they also do some things that concern people because they're not necessarily up front and open with you."

    He said the church has a history of buying properties downtown using corporate names, leaving some residents and business owners worried about the church's intention to expand, according to Cretekos.

    "The church has facilities all over the world. They seem to have a large presence in Clearwater, but Clearwater's a small town," Yingling said. "It has absolutely no interest in taking over the city. It has no interest in managing the downtown. It has no interest in putting retail in the downtown that it would run or manage."

    Church leadership says the 1.4 acres of land was part of a $60 million expansion project that was to be built with the city as a partner. The church produced an animation showing how the land fit into a massive retail and entertainment complex. But now, without that land, the church says the deal is off.

    "It's dead because it was part of a partnership and the city rejected the partnership," Yingling said.

    Although the church said its dispute with the city is over and it is moving on, it has now turned its attention to the land's previous owner, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

    The church recently filed an extensive critical report with county officials in April about the aquarium's tax-exempt status, questioning how the organization's staff spends its multimillion-dollar budget and arguing the aquarium is less a "tax-exempt rescue mission" and more a "for-profit entertainment center."

    Aquarium officials are not worried.

    "We're one of the top-rated nonprofits in the country, year after year after year," said David Yates, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's CEO. "We're just moving on with life and this can't distract us from the work we do."

    As for the 1.4 acres of land, the mayor says the city now owns it, but adds that plans to develop it into green space or for commercial use or something entirely different are still a work in progress.

  10. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater City Council to vote today on land swap with Church of Scientology | Tampa Bay Times

    By Tracey McManus, June 14, 2017


    The City Council will vote today on whether to swap land with the Church of Scientology, the first negotiation to emerge since the church in April lost to the city on buying a crucial downtown property it needed for its campus.

    Scientology is under contract to buy the vacant lot adjacent to the Nolen apartment complex east of downtown for $625,000 from a company managed by developer Guy Bonneville with an agreement to then swap the property for three city-owned parcels, according to the contract.

    The church would acquire two small properties around the footprint of the proposed L. Ron Hubbard Hall at S Fort Harrison Avenue and Court Street, along with nine parking spaces on Watterson Avenue that abut the northwest portion of the parking garage at 28 N Garden Ave.

    City Manager Bill Horne said the city needs the lot next to the Nolen to provide parking for the nearly completed complex's retail portion. He said the deal would save taxpayers money because the total appraised value of the three parcels is $425,000, far below the price of what the city would pay if it bought the vacant lot for the Nolen directly through Bonneville.

    When the city inquired about buying the lot directly from Bonneville's company in September, Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor said Bonneville conveyed he would sell the lot to the city only for "well above the assessed value," which is $600,000.

    Bonneville, who also manages his father-in-law's company that owns the Times Clearwater bureau building at 1130 Cleveland St., declined to comment on the negotiations.

    At a city work session Monday, director of engineering Michael Quillen said there are downsides to parting with the three properties. The nine parking spaces on Garden Avenue serve the public and employees of nearby businesses.

    Continued at
  11. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater City Council again thwarts Scientology land deal | Tampa Bay Times

    By Tracey McManus, June 14, 2017


    The City Council blocked another land deal involving the Church of Scientology Wednesday night, adding uncertainty to its already tense relationship with downtown's largest landowner.

    Discussions began late last year over the city trading three properties it owns to the church for a lot east of downtown to be used for retail parking. The church wants two of the city's parcels for part of its proposed L. Ron Hubbard Hall downtown.

    But the City Council voted 4-1 to postpone a decision indefinitely, with member Bob Cundiff in opposition.

    "I'm not saying I'm not willing to do the deal at some point, I'm just not ready to do it today," council member Hoyt Hamilton said.

    At a work session Monday, Engineering director Michael Quillen said the city might need each of the three parcels in the future. On Wednesday, City Council members expressed concerns about parting with them.

    Scientology has been under contract since January to buy the vacant lot on Cleveland Street for $625,000. It is currently owned by a company managed by developer Guy Bonneville. Under terms of the proposed agreement, the church would then swap the property for the three city-owned parcels.

    This week's shift in attitude was the first sign of hesitation expressed by city officials since negotiations with church began, according to attorney Katie Cole, who is representing Scientology in the deal.

    Cole said the church has a $75,000 non-refundable deposit tied to the deal.

    "Until Monday, after months of negotiation and discussion with the city staff, the church was not aware of any concern that this would be anything other than surplus property," Cole said.

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

    The land swap would involve the church trading the lot it has under contract, which is adjacent to the Nolan apartment complex on Cleveland Street, in exchange for: 600 Franklin Street, which holds the former fire marshal building; a parcel on the northwest corner of S Garden Avenue and Court Street with seven parking spaces; and nine parking spaces on Watterson Avenue that abut the Garden Avenue parking garage.

    Wednesday's vote comes on the heels of the city buying a 1.4 acre vacant lot on Pierce Street for $4.25 million from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The church wanted the property for its adjacent Oak Cove religious retreat and had upped its offer to the aquarium twice to $15 million before the city's purchase.

    City Manager Bill Horne said the church stopped returning the city's emails and phone calls after the City Council bought the aquarium land in April. The council had originally been scheduled to discuss the swap of the three-unrelated city parcels last month, but the vote was postponed because of the lack of communication until Scientology officials met with Horne and city attorney Pam Akin May 31.

    City Council members on Wednesday did not set a date to revisit the land swap.

    The value of the city's three parcels totals $425,000, according to appraisals ordered by the city in February. The city also obtained an appraisal of Bonneville's vacant lot adjacent to the Nolen, which is valued at $600,000.

    Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor said when the city inquired about buying the lot directly from Bonneville's company in September, Bonneville conveyed he would sell the lot to the city only for "well above the assessed value."

    Bonneville declined to comment on the negotiations or whether he offered Scientology a better deal than the city. Bonneville is also the manager of his father-in-law's company, which owns the Tampa Bay Times Clearwater bureau building at 1130 Cleveland St.

    Hamilton, the council member, acknowledged the city would have been gaining higher valued property than it would have given up in the deal. But city engineering staff said the Franklin Street property could be used for stormwater retention in the future, and Hamilton wasn't confident about giving up the two other properties that hold valued parking space.

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  12. The Wrong Guy Member

    Smile, Clay Irwin, you’re on creepy camera!

    By Tony Ortega, June 17, 2017


    Clearwater, Florida tavernkeeper Clay Irwin messaged us a couple of photos yesterday, asking us if he should be concerned.

    He explained that Bruno, his Miniature Pinscher, had been barking at something in the bushes on the property of his neighbor. Clay went over to see what it might be, and found this item, with a short metal rod stuck into the ground. He says it was well hidden, but he could see that it was pointed at his house.

    We asked Clay if the lens of the Brinno camera had been aimed at his driveway.

    “Yep. Totally,” he said.

    A similar camera, you will remember, was mounted on a tree facing the driveway at Marty and Monique Rathbun’s house in Texas when they were under intense surveillance by Church of Scientology operatives. Rathbun, who used to run such operations before he left the church in 2004, said that the purpose of such a camera was to capture images of license plates so private investigators could determine who was visiting the house.

    “No flipping way,” Irwin said when we explained this to him.

    We’ve written about Irwin several times. He’s the owner of the Lucky Anchor pub on Cleveland Street in Clearwater, which he opened at the beginning of this year, right in the middle of Scientology’s “Flag Land Base” campus. He told us he was determined to get along with his church neighbors when he opened for business, but since then he’s had some run-ins with the organization that have complicated that relationship. A construction worker drinking at his bar took Clay on an impromptu tour of Tom Cruise’s unfinished condo down the street, for example, and seemingly because of that Clay was not invited to a presentation about downtown development that Scientology leader David Miscavige gave local business owners which included John Travolta, Kelly Preston, and Kirstie Alley. Clay later ran into Preston, however, and she seemed friendly.

    Most recently, he’s been giving network television interviews about the latest controversies in town regarding Scientology. Since then, he says he’s been feeling like he’s being watched.

    “I’ve been feeling like I have been followed,” he says. “I took the camera inside and opened it up. I searched the serial number online, but I didn’t find anything. I took the card out and my laptop is downloading files from it right now. They’re huge files.”

    He found that the camera used four AA batteries, which lasted for 80 hours before needing to be changed, according to its specs. The camera looked like it had been there for numerous days, and so the batteries would have been changed several times, he estimates.

    We told him we’d be interested to learn what he finds in the images recorded by the camera. He said he’d be happy to share that with us.

    Source, and photos:
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  13. Quentinanon Member

    OSA has just got to find out the identities of all the possible Marcabian agents visiting Clay. It gets their stats up.
  14. The Wrong Guy Member

  15. The Wrong Guy Member

  16. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology’s sneaky strategy: Suck up to police departments through ‘Drug-Free’ campaigns

    By Rod Keller, June 26, 2017


    Scientologists received a remarkable request recently from Clearwater member Patrick Clouden. Clouden is a large donor to Scientology, and in particular to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World. The flier he put out says that the Clearwater Police Department has asked Scientology for help dealing with the increase in the use of synthetic drugs in the city, and volunteers are being asked to come to meet at the storefront headquarters on social reform row on Fort Harrison Ave. (This is the same police department that Scientology protested in 1997, during which they taunted the chief with the chant “Sid Klein, What’s Your Crime?”)


    The Clearwater police recall the contact with Scientology differently. It was Scientology that approached the police, and not the other way around, the department tells us in a statement:

    The Foundation for a Drug-Free World Florida approached the Clearwater Police Department asking what it could do to help address drug problems in the community. We shared with the representatives a concerning trend related to synthetic drugs or “spice.” The foundation created a drug awareness pamphlet on synthetic drugs and distributed it in the community. The Clearwater Police Department welcomes any attempt by any group to try to put a dent in the drug problem. Our officers see the effects of synthetic drugs on a sometimes daily basis on the streets of Clearwater; any effort to warn potential users about the dangers is welcome.

    The Scientology booklet on synthetic drugs is one of a series produced in the Truth About Drugs series, and describes the dangers of synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or Spice. Clearwater is not alone in seeing an increase in use of the drug, variaties of which are legal in some countries where marijuana is not. The drug is linked to seizures, kidney damage, strokes and is generally seen as an unsafe alternative to marijuana.

    Seeking the sanction of police officials is a growing trend among branches of the Foundation for a Drug-Free World. Bernard and Meghan Fialkoff recently won Scientology’s Freedom Medal for their work with the Foundation, which bestows significant prestige within the Scientology community.

    The remarkable aspect of their work is that the Fialkoffs have recruited New York City police officers to distribute the booklets and participate in presentations to school assemblies.

    Continued at
  17. The Wrong Guy Member

    Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building | Tampa Bay Times

    By Tracey McManus, June 26, 2017


    The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up to the location disclosed to the city.

    Church officials first notified the Clearwater Police Department on Friday that unarmed actors would be wearing FBI T-shirts and carrying boxes from one of two possible locations for a "film project."

    Lt. Michael Walek confirmed in an email to officers on Monday the mock raid would take place at 3 p.m. at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. The site, a privately owned, one-story building, is a couple of blocks to the east and north of The Sandcastle, a Scientology retreat on the downtown waterfront.

    A handful of people in plain clothes filed in and out of the vacant building Monday afternoon, but no apparent filming took place and no actors in FBI shirts were present.

    Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw said late Monday in a statement: "You didn't see the filming because, as it turned out, the video team found a better location for their production."

    A Clearwater police officer arrived at 3 p.m. and watched the Fort Harrison Avenue building for about 30 minutes before leaving. Public Communications Director Joelle Castelli said the city was not updated Monday about the film relocating from the original venue.

    Shaw said the filming was part of a short documentary "that focuses on what Scientologists do around the world to help better society, including assisting law enforcement and the justice system crack down on crime."

    Shaw said Monday's shoot related to a 2016 FBI raid on a Florida doctor convicted for Medicaid fraud, although he did not provide the name of the doctor.

    Beyond its documentary, the church has a history when it comes to both filming and the FBI.

    Last year in Hollywood, Calif., it turned a local television studio on Sunset Boulevard into a motion picture and television studio. Scientology leader David Miscavige called the facility a vehicle for getting "our uncorrupted communication line to the billions."

    The church also has a large film studio at its compound in the mountains 90 miles east of Los Angeles. It produces film and video for its promotions, as well as for training and providing content for numerous websites used to attack critics of Scientology.

    Its background with the FBI is more tangled, and dates back decades.

    On July 8, 1977, FBI agents stormed Scientology's Los Angeles and Washington offices, confiscating 48,149 documents.

    Among the findings, the FBI uncovered copies of confidential IRS documents, one-foot thick, that a Scientology operative had stolen after being hired in 1975 as a clerk-typist in the IRS headquarters in Washington.

    Eleven Scientologists were convicted on charges of conspiring to steal government documents or obstructing justice, including Mary Sue Hubbard, the wife of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Following the raid, L. Ron Hubbard, named an unindicted co-conspirator, went into seclusion at his ranch near La Quinta, Calif.

    In 2009 and 2010, the FBI conducted a human trafficking investigation that focused on the church's low-paid, military-style work force known as the Sea Org. The inquiry never resulted in criminal charges.

    Scientology officials said they didn't know about the investigation and raised doubts that it ever took place. But documents — posted in May by the entertainment and gossip website — buttressed a 2013 report by the Tampa Bay Times detailing a methodical FBI investigation of the church, with agents traveling to several states, questioning dozens of former Scientologists, obtaining surveillance video of the church's remote headquarters in the mountains east of Los Angeles and even contemplating a raid of that facility.

    According to one document, former Sea Org members told agents that the church "tricks" people into the organization with promises of good living conditions, but later houses and holds them "at secure locations where they work 15 hour days in various positions for Scientology based companies … given no days off and are permitted only limited and monitored contact with anyone outside of the camps where they live and work."

    The documents do not indicate why the FBI investigation was dropped.

    Source, and open comments:
  18. The Wrong Guy Member

    REPORT: David Miscavige has not been to Scientology’s secretive ‘Int Base’ in four years

    By Tony Ortega, June 27, 2017


    Much of what we know about the highest echelons of the Church of Scientology in recent years comes from a number of former high-ranking executives who left the organization between 2004 and 2010. Those former execs — Marty Rathbun (who left the church in 2004), Marc and Claire Headley (2005), Amy Scobee (2005), Tom DeVocht (2005), Jeff Hawkins (2005), Mike Rinder (2007), and John Brousseau (2010) — fueled numerous newspapers series, television shows, and also a feature film documentary (2015’s Going Clear), which gave us our clearest view yet of how Scientology leader David Miscavige ran the church.

    We learned about “The Hole,” for example, a prison for top executives that Miscavige created at Scientology’s secretive “Int Base” near Hemet, California in 2004, when the St. Petersburg Times revealed its existence in its 2009 series, “The Truth Rundown.” After that series, Miscavige made some changes to the Hole, something we learned from Brousseau, who came out after the others, in 2010.

    But what about since then? Ron Miscavige Sr. left the base in 2012, but he was not a top-ranking executive, and we didn’t get a lot of information about how conditions had changed at the base from his 2016 book, Ruthless. We’ve been hungering for any new information about the conditions at Int Base in more recent years. What little information we had received suggested that since a 2009/2010 FBI investigation of Scientology for human trafficking which was focused on the base, David Miscavige had been placing less emphasis on the compound as its population had shrunk.

    Now, we have learned that there have been a series of more recent escapes, and we’ve been receiving new information about Int Base for the first time in several years. Among the details that we’ve been told by our sources:

    1. David Miscavige has not visited Int Base — which used to be his primary home — in more than four years.

    2. Escape attempts have increased in frequency as conditions at the base continue to deteriorate.

    3. Pregnancies are becoming more frequent as Sea Org couples use that method to get sent away from the base.
    (Previously, the policy was to coerce Sea Org women to have abortions so they remained on post, but after that situation was reported by the press, the church changed the policy, and now merely kicks pregnant couples out of the Sea Org.)

    4. Miscavige’s primary residence is now his apartment in Hollywood behind the Author Services Inc. building on Hollywood Boulevard.

    When we asked a former Int Base official what it might mean that Miscavige has not been to the base for such a long time, they told us that in fact, “He was threatening to do that for quite a while. And there were long periods when he wasn’t there. He just manages things by conference calls when he’s not at the base. But to be gone for four years? That tells me there’s some fear and avoidance of the base now on his part.”

    Is Int Base becoming less important than it used to be? “No question,” our source says. And they point out that for Miscavige the base may represent to him a dark period of church history. “More people from there did more damage in a shorter amount of time than ever in Scientology’s history,” our source says, referring to the years of publicity produced by the wave of high-ranking Int Base executives who emerged between 2004 and 2010.

    We pointed out that for some time, we’ve been working on the theory that Miscavige is de-emphasizing the importance of Scientology’s formerly major centers in Southern California and has instead been building up Scientology’s presence in Clearwater, Florida.

    “Miscavige had talked about that,” our source says. “He said that he was going to move key projects to Clearwater. And he had even talked about shutting down Int Base entirely.”

    Shut down Int Base? Pull back to Clearwater? These may be strange times for the Church of Scientology indeed.

  19. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology sends city a message: Don't let religious bias affect land deal | Tampa Bay Times

    By Tracey McManus, July 1, 2017


    A Church of Scientology lawyer says the city's recent decision to back away from a land swap with the church was "unfounded," and she signaled in a letter that her clients will be watching to see if religious discrimination might be at play.

    The lawyer, Monique Yingling of Washington, D.C., said the swap had been in the works for six months, with city staff never expressing "even a hint of a concern" about needing the three small parcels it would be giving up. Plus, the city would be gaining, in exchange, a vacant lot on Cleveland Street it needs for parking worth $175,000 more than the three parcels combined.

    The Clearwater City Council last month killed the swap, deciding it wasn't ready to part with the three parcels.

    In her letter Monday to City Manager Bill Horne, Yingling proposed a new deal for the church to get the land it wants, and cited another sale the city made to Calvary Baptist Church in 2015. She said Scientology is asking "for the same consideration and treatment the city afforded another religious institution in the community."

    Horne defended the council's decision, saying in an interview that the church is crying religious discrimination where it doesn't exist.

    "They are trying to suggest our actions are driven by some kind of religious bias," Horne said "There's no basis for it. I'm so disappointed when I hear these kinds of comments suggesting we'd do anything other than an evaluation based on facts."

    In light of the land swap falling through, Yingling asked the city to at least sell Scientology one of the three parcels in question, a sliver at the corner of Court Street and South Garden Avenue, which currently holds seven city parking spaces.

    The parcel borders the footprint of the church's proposed $150 million performance hall and convention center, L. Ron Hubbard Hall, and is "an integral and necessary component" of that project, Yingling said.

    Horne said there is no urgency to act on the church's request and said he has not committed to even putting it before the council for a vote.

    When voting the deal down June 14, City Council members cited fears they may need the two other city properties in the failed deal. During a work session two days earlier, Engineering Director Michael Quillen said the former fire marshal building at 600 Franklin Street, also bordering Scientology's proposed auditorium, could be used for stormwater retention for nearby development. In addition, he said, nine parking spaces near the Garden Avenue parking garage could serve future public demand downtown.

    But during private discussions with the church over the past six months, and during the June 14 presentation before the council, city staff never provided much reason for needing the seven spaces on Court Street, Yingling wrote.

    And Scientology, she notes, has held up its end of the bargain: After church spokesman Ben Shaw began negotiations for the swap in October, Community Redevelopment Agency Director Seth Taylor selected the vacant lot adjacent to the nearly completed Nolen apartments east of downtown as a property the city vitally needs but was having difficulties acquiring.

    In January, Scientology secured a contract with the lot's owner, a company managed by developer Guy Bonneville, with an agreement to then swap the property for the three city parcels.

    Despite the council voting down the trade, Scientology followed through with buying the Nolen lot — the $625,000 sale closed June 27.

    The land swap negotiations overlapped with the peak of recent tensions between the city and Scientology, when the city bought a 1.4-acre vacant lot on Pierce Street in April for $4.25 million from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The church said it needed the property for its adjacent Oak Cove religious retreat and had upped its offer to the aquarium twice to $15 million before the city's purchase.

    Earlier, in private meetings with the City Council, Scientology leader David Miscavige proposed bankrolling a facade beautification of Cleveland Street, recruiting high-end retail to empty storefronts, and building an entertainment complex with actor Tom Cruise if the city stepped aside and allowed the church to buy the Pierce Street lot. Miscavige made clear the retail offer depended on the church being able to acquire the lot for its retreat.

    But the council voted in April to buy the land from the aquarium instead. And after that, Horne said, the church stopped returning the city's emails and phone calls. He said the silence from the church's end delayed talks about the land swap that had been scheduled for May.

    When Shaw finally responded and scheduled a meeting for May 31, Horne said the discussion focused on what the future relationship between the church and the city would look like.

    As downtown's largest property owner, Horne said the city needs to be updated about the church's plans for its non-religious property in the downtown core and whether Scientology intends to continue acquiring land. He also said it's vital the church support the city's $55 million Imagine Clearwater redevelopment plan, and the November referendum to enable key development on the downtown bluff.

    Despite posing those questions, Horne said he didn't get a clear answer from church officials. And still hasn't.

    "They say, 'We have no desire to fight with the city,' they keep saying that, but as I get to know them better I question some of that," Horne said.

    Shaw pushed back in a statement to the Times on Friday, saying the church has been transparent by informing the city over the last several years about its need for the aquarium's Pierce Street lot, and the city's parcels surrounding the proposed L. Ron Hubbard Hall site.

    He did not directly address Horne's question about whether Scientology will support Imagine Clearwater redevelopment and the November referendum. He said in his statement: "The seven parking spots in question have absolutely nothing to do with the bluff."

  20. Assumed that they were practicing document shredding for a Snow White type law enforcement raid. Or human trafficking raid. Or illegal detainment. Or conspiracy.
  21. The Wrong Guy Member

    Images from spy camera show Clearwater bar owner not only target

    By Tony Ortega, July 4, 2017


    Clearwater bar owner Clay Irwin has obtained some images from the camera he found aimed at his house recently, and they contained a surprise.

    Irwin opened a bar in January, the Lucky Anchor on Cleveland Street in Clearwater, Florida. His bar was smack in the middle of the Church of Scientology’s “Flag Land Base” which takes up much of the city’s downtown.

    Clay had told us he wanted to be a good neighbor to the church, but then he received an impromptu tour of the new condo penthouse being prepared for Tom Cruise, just down the street, and since then his relationship with the organization has been more contentious.

    But he was stunned to find the camera, which his dog Bruno sniffed out on his neighbor’s property. It was a time-lapse Brinno camera in an all-weather case, and his Scientologist neighbor denied knowing about it.

    Because of his recent run-ins with the church, and because of Scientology’s history of spying on perceived enemies, including a famous case of using a remotely controlled time-lapse camera outside the Rathbun home in Texas, it didn’t take much to convince Clay that the church has had his house under surveillance.

    Our request for a statement from the church, however, has not elicited a response.

    Clay has managed to extract images from the camera, and he shared them with us.

    Not surprisingly, the images included shots of Clay’s house, taken during the day and at night.

    <photos snipped>

    Clay tells us that the camera also captured an image of the man who placed it, but it’s hard to see his face because of what appears to be the beam from a flashlight.

    <photo snipped>

    And what really surprised Clay, he tells us, is to find that the camera had apparently been used in another surveillance operation earlier this year. Can anyone tell us if they recognize who the target of this stalking was?

    <photos snipped>

    “I’m going to have the serial number of the camera traced,” Clay tells us.

    “Every time I leave the house I’m looking for cameras. I’m creeped the eff out.”

    More at
  22. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology’s ‘Block Party’ today in Clearwater: Sending a message to the Lucky Anchor?

    By Tony Ortega, July 15, 2017


    Clay Irwin is surrounded!

    It’s a warm Saturday afternoon in Clearwater, Florida. Are you nearby? Got a thirst that needs quenching? In a mood for a little Scientology watching as well?

    We have just the thing.

    Three days ago, a tipster sent us this Scientology flier announcing that a “block party” was going to be held in downtown Clearwater to celebrate two years since the church constructed its Potemkin Village of storefronts on Fort Harrison Avenue. These were happy looking places built to handle curious visitors who wanted to learn more about Scientology’s front groups — a real magnet of interest for out-of-towners, to be sure.

    We didn’t think much about the flier at first. Scientology is always putting on this kind of event in an attempt to convince locals that it’s actually doing something to improve life in Clearwater, and not actually draining its downtown of all human activity, as it has been since it surreptitiously invaded the place in 1975.

    Well, anyway, like we said we didn’t give it much of a thought until this morning, when we started getting messages from Clearwater bar owner Clay Irwin, whose photographs tell a pretty obvious story about what’s going on with this “block party.”

    On the left in that photo you can see Clay’s bar, the Lucky Anchor, and on the right, practically on top of Clay’s tavern, you can see the stage area that’s been set up for tonight’s “block party” put on by the Church of Scientology.

    Now, to put this in a little perspective, you’ll remember that we’ve been showing you images that were taken from a spy camera Clay found planted outside his home, a camera he suspects was placed there by operatives working for the church.

    Although he had said when he opened the Lucky Anchor in January that he wanted to get along with his Scientology neighbors, Clay’s impromptu February visit to Tom Cruise’s still-under-construction penthouse down the street, and some other run-ins with the church seemed to put him in Scientology’s cross-hairs.

    Clay told us he “has no clue” if putting a stage for Scientology’s event just feet from Clay’s bar is an intimidation attempt. So far today, he’s been offering to help with the setup, and has offered organizers bottles of water and the use of his electrical outlets.

    But after he began taking some photos, “they had someone come over to talk to me to see what I was doing,” he says.

    We asked Clay if he thought it was a good idea for the Underground Bunker to announce what’s going on so that fans of the Lucky Anchor might get over there to show their support and have some fun watching Scientology’s event, which begins at 5 pm tonight.

    “The would be flipping awesome,” he said.

    So, if you happen to be in the area, please give a thought to visiting Clay’s bar this evening simply to show your support. Tell Clay the Bunker sent you. Have a drink, relax, and watch what happens at the block party — hey, send us some photos while you’re at it. But please, do not agitate or provoke the people at the block party in any way.

    Be an observer. And be cool.

    He’s looking at you, Bunkerites

    Source, and open comments:
  23. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater's farmers market contract goes to bid, shakes current operator | Tampa Bay Times

    By Tracey McManus, August 2, 2017


    When the city put the contract for its downtown farmers market out to bid for the first time in June, it inadvertently ruled out the current operator.

    Natalie Nagengast, who launched the Pierce Street Market on the waterfront in 2015, has run the business for two seven-month seasons, short of the 24 calendar months of experience outlined by the city.

    On July 27, the day the bid responses were due, Nagengast announced to her 46,000 Instagram and Facebook followers she was closing the popular market, stating "this summer, the city of Clearwater decided to put our waterfront market and our permits out for a public bid ... and sadly our market did not qualify."

    The backlash was swift, with supporters like Tammie Lockwood commenting "City of Clearwater you make some really dumb decisions."

    Now the city is extending the deadline until Aug. 11 and changing the experience requirement from "two years" to "two seasons," specifically to accommodate Nagengast.

    Communications Director Joelle Castelli said the wording of the "two years" experience requirement was an oversight and the intent was for Nagengast to be eligible and apply. Castelli said Nagengast did not apply before the original due date and did not contact the city asking for clarification.

    Tampa Bay Markets, which runs six farmers markets in Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, and Orlando-based RTP Productions Corp., were the only two businesses to apply.

    Nagengast, 29, who declined an interview request and only responded to select questions via text message, said Tuesday that she planned to submit a bid by the new due date.

    In announcing the closing of Pierce Street Market on social media, Nagengast stated her business would be renamed Markets for Makers, which will host a variety of pop-up markets across Tampa Bay.

    Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor said the city decided to put the market contract out to bid because Nagengast began indicating in April she was looking to move to another city. Because the market is using public property for a private business, Taylor also said the city had to ensure it was a "competitive and fair process."

    Since 2016, the city has given Pierce Street Market $30,000 in cash grants, according to downtown manager Anne Fogarty France.

    On April 13, Nagengast emailed Taylor stating she was considering relocating her business because of disappointment in the city's lack of support for the Church of Scientology's offer to overhaul downtown infrastructure, recruit high end retail to empty storefronts and build an entertainment complex with actor Tom Cruise.

    Scientology leader David Miscavige offered to bankroll the redevelopment on the condition the city move aside and allow the church to buy a 1.4 acre vacant lot on Pierce Street. After the city bought the lot April 20, Miscavige withdrew his offer to redevelop downtown.

    On April 17, Nagengast told the city she would not be requesting any more city funds for the 2018 fiscal year. She also stated in an email to the Downtown Development Board that she pulled her proposal for an indoor market, explaining "hopefully there will be many more businesses downtown coming soon and we can revisit the project."

    That came five days after Nagengast sent an email to her vendors encouraging them to support Scientology's proposal and encourage the council not to buy the vacant lot coveted by the church.

    In an email to her vendors on July 27, Nagengast explained she did not submit a bid for the market contract because the experience requirement disqualified her, but also because liability insurance and disclosure requirements were too constricting. Those requirements have not changed with the extended deadline.

    "It wasn't in our best interest or your best interest to respond," she wrote. "To respond and even get the opportunity to get into back and forth negotiations was literally handing over the keys of everything I own in my company."

    According to data Nagengast provided to the city, Pierce Street Market had more than 50,000 visitors in the 2017 season and $50,000 in food truck sales. Since its launch in October 2016, Nagengast said the market has hosted 550 small businesses.

    Tampa Bay Markets owner Greg Barnhill said he bid for the Clearwater contract to expand and help more local businesses reach the public. He said the city extending its deadline to accommodate one business does not change his proposal.

    "It is their prerogative to do that," Barnhill said. "So may the best vendor win."

  24. DeathHamster Member

    What a surprise!
    • Like Like x 1
  25. failboat Member

    Yeah, she's been ID'ed as a Scientologist previously. She spoke to multiple local news outlets in Clearwater in favor of Scientology being allowed to purchase the parcel from the Aquarium. In those reports, she was identified as a Scientologist and a local business owner; at least one of the reports I remember specifying that it was that local farmer's market.

    Here she is at around 2:25. Young and very photogenic, it is obvious why the church wanted her to be their public face on the land deal.

  26. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater man streams from inside Tom Cruise’s penthouse, Church of Scientology not happy

    By Melanie Michael, WFLA


    Clay Irwin admits that, as of late, life has certainly been strange. The owner of the Lucky Anchor Irish Bar in downtown Clearwater told News Channel 8 he was thrilled when a contractor buddy asked him if he wanted to check out the penthouse nearby being built by actor Tom Cruise.

    “I would’ve never dreamed in a million years this would’ve happened to me. Life has been interesting, no doubt about it,” Irwin told News Channel 8.

    The Clearwater businessman captured the moment in Cruise’s penthouse on Facebook Live and posted it.
    Shortly after, it went viral, fast.

    So was the response, he says, from the Church of Scientology.

    Irwin said several members of the church showed up immediately at his bar next door.

    “I guess Mr. Cruise saw it, or something along those lines, and he wasn’t happy about it. I removed the video right there on the spot,” he admitted.

    Irwin thought the drama was over, but now admits it was just beginning. He explained that the previously friendly members of the church turned cold quickly. No one would talk to him anymore, and the amicable chats ceased.

    Worse than that, he says, he now thinks he is being watched by the church.

    He claims his dog sniffed out a spy camera planted in some shrubbery across the street from his home, located not too far from his business on Cleveland Street.

    That’s when he got worried and decided to put his house on the market.

    “I’m still going to be neutral, because I have to work here. I’ve got my life savings in this place. It’s tough,” he said.

    A public relations person from the Church of Scientology told News Channel 8 that they believe the businessman is out for “publicity” for his bar. They also said that he was committing a felony by filming the Facebook Live in the first place.

    However, Irwin explained that he was invited by his contractor friend into the penthouse to take a look. When the church asked him to remove the video from social media, he did it right away.

    He does admit that his friend was fired from the job three days later.

    “Lots of drama,” Irwin told us. “Drama.”

    The Church of Scientology issued the following statement:

    The article, which includes a news report video, is continued here:
  27. The Wrong Guy Member

    Is John Travolta moving to Clearwater? Property records offer hints

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times, August 25, 2017


    On July 10, a waterfront home in the Old Clearwater Bay neighborhood sold for $3 million to an investment trust held by Ellen Bannon, the actor's sister.

    Bannon's investment trust is also listed as the owner of Travolta's eight-bedroom mansion in Ocala with two airplane hangars, a tennis court and horse barn, according to property records.

    The 6,162-square-foot pad overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway sits directly next door to two houses owned by actor and Scientologist Kirstie Alley. The block on N Osceola Avenue is about a mile walk to Scientology's international spiritual headquarters downtown.

    And Travolta has spent time in the city recently, most notably in April, when he highlighted an invitation-only event at the Fort Harrison Hotel about Scientology leader David Miscavige's now-rescinded retail development plan.


    Travolta, Bannon and the Jacksonville-based attorney representing the investment trust could not be reached for comment to confirm the actor's connection to the N Osecola Avenue home's purchase.

    But Silke Peens, who owned the home since 2009 before selling to the investment trust, has a connection as well. Peens' current address listed on the deed is 6331 Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles: the Church of Scientology International.

    More at
  28. The Wrong Guy Member

    Downtown Clearwater board election could bring majority Scientology representation

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times


    For what appears to be the first time ever, an elected city board could be made up by a majority of people associated with the Church of Scientology, downtown's largest and most influential property owner.

    The Downtown Development Board, which oversees a special taxing district tasked with marketing downtown and promoting events, has three of its seven seats up for grabs in an election that will be counted Tuesday. Four of the nine candidates, who are required to live, work or own a business downtown, are Scientology parishioners.

    Two of the seven current board members are also parishioners and business owners, setting up the potential for the board to be represented by a clear majority of officials associated with the Church of Scientology, which owns $207 million worth of property under its name and at least another $27 million under anonymous LLCs.

    It would be the first time in City Manager Bill Horne's 20-year tenure that members of downtown's most influential institution had a majority representation on any elected board or committee. No other religious organization, business or nonprofit owns the mass of real estate or has a comparable footprint downtown, where the Church of Scientology has its international spiritual headquarters.

    With the city embarking on its $55 million waterfront revitalization plan Imagine Clearwater, and the church's intentions for recently acquired property still unknown, the question about the board's potential dynamic remains.

    "The board's purpose is to promote downtown businesses and practices that support downtown property owners and downtown objectives," Horne said. "If (the election) results in an overwhelming majority of the board members being parishioners of the church, the proof is going to be in the pudding. Does that really change the characteristics of the board, does it change or influence their decisions?"

    The DDB has a $282,000 annual budget generated through a special tax on the properties within the boundaries, which is a jigsaw-shaped district encompassing downtown. The board is tasked with marketing events, promoting tourism, providing assistance to businesses and other initiatives.

    Only the 247 property owners within the district are eligible to vote for board members. The DDB mailed ballots to voters Sept. 18, and a committee overseen by the Supervisor of Elections will tally the results Tuesday.

    Keanan Kintzel, who's had his Buzzazz Business Solutions downtown for 12 years, said he's running for the DDB to help bring more family friendly events to the area on a regular basis, including more music festivals. He said his background in Scientology did not influence his decision, and having a majority of Scientologists on an elected board should not favor the church over the general public.

    "I don't think it really matters in Congress or the Supreme Court or a small little group like this," Kintzel said. "If the group is there as a common purpose to grow a community, I don't care what their background is."

    DDB candidate Ray Cassano, who owns Station Square Realty and is a member of the church, declined to comment on the election and hung up on a reporter. Candidates and parishioners Jere Jarrett and Gene Obolensky did not respond to requests for comment.

    Church of Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw noted in a statement Friday that no official church staff member is running. With the presence of business owners who are also parishioners downtown, their participation in an election "is inevitable, simply because they are citizens of Clearwater."

    Realtor Fran Bartlett, who is not a Scientologist, said she decided to run for DDB because "Clearwater is being left in the dust by downtown St. Pete and Dunedin and it's a tremendous opportunity to get some things turned around."

    Bartlett said some in the general public can feel "afraid to go downtown" because of Scientology's tremendous presence, reminiscent of the Catholic Church in Rome or the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City.

    "We have to figure out how to strike a balance," Bartlett said, who has also developed three restaurants in the city.

    "One of the things that hurts us is that Scientology does own so much property. If they don't let loose to some new development, I don't know if we'll be able to get it done."

    In March, Scientology leader David Miscavige met privately with all City Council members except for Doreen Caudell, who declined, to propose bankrolling a facade overhaul of Cleveland Street buildings, recruiting high-end retail to empty storefronts and launching an entertainment complex with actor Tom Cruise.

    The offer hinged on the church's ability to buy a 1.4-acre vacant lot on Pierce Street.

    After the city bought the lot from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in April, Miscavige rescinded the revitalization offer and ended all communication with city officials.

    Before Miscavige revealed his retail plan to the Council, the church bought $27 million of downtown property under anonymous LLCs. The church has not released plans for those properties.

    While the DDB has in the past focused on facade grants and other capital projects, the board has shifted over the past year to downtown marketing, event sponsorship and beautification, said Community Redevelopment Agency Director Seth Taylor.

    The CRA's board, which is made up by City Council members, is focused on acquiring property, recruiting businesses and investing in infrastructure improvements.

    Taylor said the DDB "helps amplify and enhance the work of the CRA."

    "It's encouraging to see we do have more candidates than past years," Taylor said of the DDB election. "To me, that's a sign, an indication, there's growing interest among the downtown community to play a role in the decision making for the future of downtown Clearwater... Religion is not a factor from my viewpoint."

    Mayor George Cretekos said even though the Church of Scientology is the largest property owner downtown, having a majority of parishioners on an elected board would be no different than "if they were all Greek Orthodox and businessmen in my opinion."

    "I would hope they would act on behalf of the community before their church," Cretekos said. "A responsibility any person has when he is elected to office is for the best interest of the community. That's part of the oath you take."

    Contact Tracey McManus at or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

    The candidates

    Nine candidates are vying for three open seats on the seven-member Downtown Development Board. Only the 247 property owners within the special taxing district are eligible to vote. The ballots will be counted on Tuesday.

    • Fran Bartlett, Realtor and restaurateur
    • Dennis Bosi, owner of Bob Lee's Auto Repair
    • Ray Cassano, owner of Station Square Realty
    • Venkat Devineni, owner of InfiSystems
    • Caitlein Jammo, lawyer with Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns, LLP
    • Jere Jerrett, chiropractor
    • Keanan Kintzel, owner of Buzzazz Business Solutions
    • Gen Obolensky, owner of Botanica Day Spa
    • Lina Teixeira, owner of Studio 617 and downtown merchants association caps president

  29. who’s is that
  30. The Wrong Guy Member

    Tie in Clearwater downtown development board election causes runoff

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times


    The Oct. 10 Downtown Development Board election for three open seats did not result in the historic dynamic it had the potential to create.

    Realtor Ray Cassano, Infisystems owner Venkat Devineni and Studio 617 owner Lina Teixeira were the top three vote-getters of the nine candidates.

    The race was unique in that it was apparently the first time an elected city board could have been made up by a majority of people associated with the Church of Scientology, downtown's largest and most influential property owner. Four of the nine candidates, who are required to live, work or own a business downtown, were Scientology parishioners.

    Two of the seven current board members also are parishioners and business owners, setting up the potential for the board to be represented by a clear majority of officials associated with the Church of Scientology, which owns $207 million worth of property under its name and at least another $27 million under various LLCs.

    But, of the top three, only Cassano is associated with the church, keeping the makeup without a Scientology majority.

    The results, however, will require a runoff for 247 eligible voters within the district that encompasses downtown. The two candidates with the highest number of votes were to be elected to three-year terms with the third-place candidate filling a one-year term.

    But the top three of the nine candidates ended in a dead tie with 84 votes each. The runoff election has not yet been scheduled.

  31. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater Police investigating Mexican girl's injury at Scientology headquarters

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times


    The Clearwater Police Department is investigating an incident where a 17-year-old girl from Mexico suffered a head injury Sunday at the Church of Scientology's international spiritual headquarters.

    Chief Dan Slaughter said church staff reported the girl slipped on stairs and hit the back of her head, which appears to be accidental.

    Church staff did not call an ambulance but drove the girl 4 miles to Largo Medical Center for treatment, bypassing Morton Plant Hospital which is 1½ miles from the Flag building.

    "I don't have the answer on why they did that," Slaughter said. "I'm not so sure it would be that uncommon if a parent or somebody else in the public didn't feel it needed 911."

    She was then transported to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, where she remained Thursday in stable condition, Slaughter said. The parents were in Mexico, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

    In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday, Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw said an accident sustained by a minor is not newsworthy. He stated the girl's parents are with her at the hospital.

    Gualtieri said the Child Protection Investigation Division received an anonymous complaint about the case on Monday. The CPI investigator, which handles the child welfare component, contacted Clearwater Police on Thursday to cover the criminal investigation portion.

    Slaughter said Clearwater police are lining up interviews with Scientology staff, who are cooperating.
    Investigators have also requested surveillance video that is thought to have captured the incident.

    "This is kind of like a check-and-balance to make sure any kid that's being abused doesn't slip through the cracks," Slaughter said. "Our job is to make sure this isn't a case of abuse reported as something else."

  32. The Wrong Guy Member

    Today's score:
    Common sense: 1
    Cult: 0

    City Council approves $5 million for Clearwater Marine Aquarium expansion | Tampa Bay Times


    The City Council on Thursday approved contributing $5 million to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for its massive expansion project.

    The award passed 4-1 with City Council member Bill Jonson in opposition, citing concerns about impacts on the budget.

    The city will give $3 million upfront and $2 million as a matching grant in the future.

    The aquarium plans to break ground Dec. 1 on a $66 million expansion of its facility on Island Estates to build five new dolphin pools, a 376-space garage and 93,000 square feet of additional guest space.

    City Council member Hoyt Hamilton called the grant an investment rather than a gift. The aquarium is long touted as the largest tourism draw behind Clearwater Beach.

    "Business 101 that I didn't learn in school but I learned from my father is we've got to be willing to spend money to make money," Hamilton said. "This is an investment that will show far greater returns than we're giving."

    • Like Like x 1
  33. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology’s Flag Building brain injury: In Clearwater, it’s déjà vu all over again

    By Tony Ortega, October 20, 2017


    December 5 will mark the 22nd anniversary of the death of Lisa McPherson. Two years ago, for the 20th anniversary, we produced a lengthy series re-reporting her final days in real time, to get a sense of how her terrible experience played out over several weeks.

    One of the reasons we did that was not only to look for new details in her sad case, but also, frankly, to put it to rest. A part of us winces whenever we see people bring up McPherson’s death to criticize the Church of Scientology. We can’t help thinking, almost as a reflex, it was one death more than 20 years ago, move on already.

    But this is Scientology, and somehow, these idiots just made the Lisa McPherson story totally relevant all over again.

    Yesterday, Tampa Bay Times reporter Tracey McManus reported that on Sunday a 17-year-old Mexican girl received some kind of head injury in Scientology’s Flag Building (more colloquially known as the “Super Power” Building, which was opened in November 2013 to great fanfare).

    Clearwater’s police chief told McManus that the girl had slipped on some stairs and hit the back of her head, but the you-have-to-be-shitting-us moment came when McManus described what the staff at the Flag building did next:

    Church staff did not call an ambulance but drove the girl 4 miles to Largo Medical Center for treatment, bypassing Morton Plant Hospital, which is 1 mile from the Flag building.

    We’re not sure if we can do enough double-facepalms on that one. If you know the McPherson saga, you can understand why we’re smacking ourselves in disbelief. After holding McPherson in isolation for 17 days so that she was dying of dehydration, the geniuses at the Fort Harrison Hotel, which is across the street from the location that would become the Super Power Building, decided to bundle her into a van and then drove her to a remote hospital, bypassing several closer ones including Morton Plant Hospital, in order to bring her to an emergency room where they knew a Scientologist doctor, David Minkoff, would be working. At some point during that unnecessarily long drive, Lisa McPherson died.

    Her death eventually became one of the single biggest sources of bad publicity for the church in its entire history. And what Janet Reitman and other observers have pointed out when they write about it is that because Scientology never learns, never adapts, and never gives a shit, there’s always the possibility that something similar could happen again.

    And sure enough, this week they proved that to be the case all over again.

    They didn’t call an ambulance, but drove a brain-injured 17-year-old girl farther than Morton Plant Hospital to a medical center three miles more distant. Why? Was there a Scientologist doctor there? We don’t know yet, and we’re looking forward to Tracey McManus following up on this item.

    But we can suggest that several things might be going on here. A 17-year-old Mexican national at the Flag Building without her parents? That makes us wonder if this was a girl brought over on an R-1 religious visa to work as a Sea Org member.

    McManus reported that investigators were hoping to look at security footage which might have caught the moment when the girl was injured. We sure hope so, because there are a number of strange locations in that building, including the giant running track on the 6th floor, and the wild “Perceptics” contraptions on the 5th floor. Sure, this might have just been a slip on some stairs, but there are some pretty creative ways someone could get hurt in that building.

    And also, we can’t help thinking the church has something to hide when it puts out a statement like this:

    “In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday, Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw said an accident sustained by a minor is not newsworthy.”

    In the name of Xenu, how do these mental giants always find exactly the wrong thing to say?

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  34. The Wrong Guy Member

    Police: Girl's fall, skull fracture at Scientology building was accidental

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times


    The Clearwater Police Department has closed its investigation into a 17-year-old girl who fractured her skull at the Church of Scientology's international headquarters, stating the fall was accidental and nothing criminal took place.

    Church video surveillance given to police, and viewed by a Tampa Bay Times reporter, shows the girl walking down a flight of interior stairs Oct. 15 when she stumbled and fell, with the back of her head hitting the marble landing.

    The girl, who is from Mexico and studying at Scientology's downtown Flag Building, suffered a bruise to the front of her forehead and a fracture to the back of her skull, according to the police report.

    She was walking down the stairs to lunch with two staff members when she fell. Scientology medical liaison Allen Taft told police the girl was walking around after the fall and stated she did not want medical attention but church staff decided to drive her to the hospital.

    The driver bypassed Morton Plant Hospital, which is a mile from the Flag building, and drove to Largo Medical Center four miles away because "the wait time is much shorter at Largo Medical than Morton Plant," Taft told police.

    Largo Medical transferred the girl to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg after performing a CT scan.

    The girl's Scientology guardian while she is in Clearwater was with her at the hospital until her parents arrived from Mexico on Oct. 16, according to the police report.

    The Child Protection Investigation Division of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office received an anonymous tip on Oct. 16 about the incident. The CPI investigator, which handles the child welfare component, contacted Clearwater police on Oct. 19 to cover the criminal investigation portion.

    On Wednesday Sgt. Spencer Gross said the agency's Child Protection investigation is still ongoing but did not provide further detail.

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  35. The Wrong Guy Member

    Is 'Imagine Clearwater' redevelopment plan downtown's last hope?

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times


    When voters in 2000 handily rejected a referendum to build along the depressed waterfront, developer Al Justice wondered if dreams of a vibrant downtown were gone forever. He had spent decades bringing major projects — the Bank of America office tower in 1974, the now FrankCrum headquarters in 1998 — and wondered why more private investment wasn't following.

    "It's always been a mystery to me," said Justice, now a consultant in North Carolina. "You've got one of the most beautiful waterfronts anybody has ever looked at, you've got all the beach activities just over the bridge. My God, what will it take to get somebody to wake up and take advantage of this?"

    Retail stores in the once vibrant core started a slow migration out with the opening of Countryside Mall in 1975, the same year the Church of Scientology moved in, establishing its international headquarters here and buying the landmark Fort Harrison Hotel.

    Since then, St. Petersburg, Dunedin and Tampa have all embodied the renaissance of American downtowns. But not Clearwater, Tampa Bay's third largest city.

    Now voters will decide again Nov. 7 whether to green light development on the waterfront, required for much of the $55 million Imagine Clearwater plan. The question is, can it transform downtown?

    "Only by bringing new activity, new opportunities to that glorious waterfront that Clearwater is blessed with are you going to establish that kind of momentum to create this city that it has the destiny to become," Justice said.

    Clearwater has unique challenges. The highway to bring in visitors is a congested 5 miles away. The bridge connecting to the beach was redirected away from downtown's Cleveland Street artery in 2005.

    And Scientology has accumulated at least 68 parcels over 40 years, mostly all encircling downtown and mostly all for its private membership.

    Anchor institutions with large footprints in a downtown, like hospitals or colleges, can offer a dependable influx of shoppers, residents and visitors, said Elizabeth Strom, associate professor in the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs.

    But if investors don't feel the market will support their businesses, they are unlikely to take a chance.

    "If there were any other institution that had this kind of presence downtown, it would be a real plus, but because of the nature of this institution's secretiveness, their insulation, their reputation — deserved or not — it is not drawing people in," Strom said.

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

    American downtowns have undergone a revival over the past 15 years as more families and young professionals choose to live in urban areas, near where they work and play. Strom said downtowns are now cultural centers for arts, food and entertainment rather than the corporate bastions they were before the suburban flight of the 1980s.

    That should play in Clearwater's favor, said William M. Rohe, director of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at the University of North Carolina. "I think the boom in central city revitalization will continue for some time," Rohe said. "I mean Detroit is coming back in places. If Detroit can attract people to its downtown and Clearwater can't, something is going on."

    The city's laser focus on downtown revitalization intensified a few years before the 2008 recession, said Geri Lopez, who spent 12 years as the city's economic development director before joining Manatee County government in 2016.

    Downtown's main drag underwent an $8.9-million streetscape and stormwater improvement project in 2006 with the core transformed into a pedestrian-friendly venue with landscaped sidewalks and medians, public art, benches, bike racks and streetlights.

    The architecturally impressive Main Library with views of the Intracoastal Waterway was built in 2004, a project approved in the same 2000 referendum where voters shut down larger private development. Then came a downtown marina.

    "Downtown revitalization is really hard work and it takes a long time and there's no secret to it," Lopez said. Downtown landed the Water's Edge and Station Square condo towers before the economy tanked, but the city still lacks a residential heart to bring foot traffic downtown, and in turn, businesses.

    Infrastructure improvements shook out differently in downtown Dunedin, three miles away, where streetscaping in the 1990s gradually expanded to areas outside of Main Street, transforming a barren area into a walkable town center. Businesses flocked downtown before the recession. So since the recovery began in 2013, a half-dozen residential projects have sprouted. The combination of business and housing has encouraged a trendy brew pub industry, resulting today in seven breweries within walking distance, according to Director of Economic Development and Housing Bob Ironsmith.

    "If you create the right environment, the emphasis on walkability, streetscape connectivity, you'll get the businesses coming," Ironsmith said. "It's creating an environment where people want to interact and walk. These cul-de-sacs with pools in the suburbs are still for some people, but for a lot of other people they want to be in these downtowns."

    Even longtime skeptics of waterfront development are hopeful Imagine Clearwater will be a turning point.

    Anne Garris, former spokesperson for Save the Bayfront activist group credited with defeating the 2000 referendum, said she's embracing this plan. Imagine Clearwater will more than double the current greenspace, create terraces and enclaves for people to gather, and a web of trails and paths to replace a massive parking lot and sprawl.

    A key difference is the 2000 referendum would have put the waterfront in the hands of private developers with a 99-year-lease. Imagine Clearwater keeps the waterfront public. Residential and retail development outlined for the City Hall and Harborview Center sites will have to return to voters for another referendum.

    "This time, instead of the powers-that-be handing something down to us and asking us to approve it, this one was done with the input of every citizen who wanted to have input," Garris said.

    After decades of decline, countless city efforts for revival, and an institutional landowner continuing to buy downtown real estate, the success of Imagine Clearwater also has symbolic weight.

    Brian Aungst Jr., Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce vice chair of government affairs, said he sees the plan as key to overcoming the perception that downtown is dead. That commitment, he said, is what's needed to attract the residential projects.

    "I think there's still hope for that to occur, but it's got to happen now," said Aungst, whose father was mayor from 1999 to 2005. "I honestly believe this Imagine Clearwater plan is the best and last hope for a citizen, community-supported revitalization of downtown for everyone. If it doesn't happen... I know personally I'm going to move on."

    Continued at
  36. The Wrong Guy Member

    Read the police report for the 17-year-old injured at Scientology’s ‘Flag’ building

    By Tony Ortega, November 4, 2017


    So we’ve learned a few more details. The young woman was at Flag for “study,” but she was moving too quickly down some marble stairs to the staff mess hall in the basement and lost her footing. She bruised her forehead and fractured the back of her skull.


    Why, we wonder, would a 17-year-old at Flag for “study” be eating in the staff cafeteria? It may not be important, but we are curious if she was there as a recruit, perhaps in the Sea Org on an R-1 visa, which has become so common for Scientology.

    We sent a message to the girl’s father to ask about that, and we’ll let you know if he gets back to us.

    The family lives in the Mexican state of Sonora, and both of the girl’s parents are active in Scientology. According to their social media accounts, their daughter left for her course of study at Flag on September 18.

    Most recently, her mother said that the girl was healing, “little by little.”

    More at
  37. The Wrong Guy Member

    Sexual harassment allegations strike a blow against a Scientology political ally in Florida

    By Rod Keller, November 13, 2017


    The current climate of victims coming forward with long-suppressed accusations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct not only snared many Hollywood figures but also a politician whose family has long been friendly to the Church of Scientology.

    On November 3, Politico reported that six women have come forward with allegations that Florida State Senator Jack Latvala groped and sexually harassed them. The allegations come on the heels of hidden camera photos of the Republican state senator kissing a female lobbyist on the lips. Latvala denies the allegations and no charges have been filed against him, but as the Tampa Bay Times reported, most observers find the accusations credible and expect this to end Latvala’s career in politics. If so, it marks an end to the influence of one of Scientology’s most powerful allies in Florida.

    Just this week, in fact, Scientologists in Clearwater received an appeal to contact Latvala in favor of Senate Bill 270, which would modestly adjust the Baker Act. The Act allows officials to bring a person who may be a danger to themselves or others to a mental health facility for evaluation against their will. Scientology is against every part of the Act. The new bill would give parents the right to transport their child instead of police officers, and require children to begin evaluation within eight hours of their arrival.


    Jack Latvala and his family have been firm allies of Scientology for decades. Scientology lost significant influence when Susan Latvala retired, now the powerful Senator may be forced to resign. Contrary to the email sent to public Scientologists, he no longer has the power to shepherd Bill 270 through the Florida Senate. It may pass anyway, but the more important development is that a close ally of Scientology’s run for higher office appears to be at an end. The scandal means Jack and Susan Latvala’s path to become the next Governor and First Lady of Florida has become nearly impossible.

    More at
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  38. The Wrong Guy Member

    Inside The Voucher Schools That Teach L. Ron Hubbard, But Say They’re Not Scientologist

    Betsy DeVos wants to expand school voucher programs throughout the U.S. Get ready for that list to include schools that promote Scientologist doctrine.

    By Rebecca Klein, HuffPost, December 11, 2017


    It was a weekday afternoon here in early December, and a gaggle of kids outside of Clearwater Academy International were playing with a ball, their laughter and shouts filling the air. The school is just a few blocks away from the spiritual headquarters for the Church of Scientology, and church volunteers appeared to be preparing for an event.

    Garrett Cantrell, who is not a Scientologist, recalled his time at the school as he sat near Clearwater’s harbor, surrounded by Scientologist retreat centers. The school was small and private, exactly what Cantrell was seeking in a high school after moving to Florida from New York in 2008.

    He and his family, as they toured the school, had asked about its religious affiliations before he enrolled, specifically wanting to make sure it wasn’t associated with Scientology. An employee told them, no. But a few months into the school year, Cantrell decided the answer was not so clear cut.

    Clearwater Academy International is one of dozens of schools and tutoring centers in the U.S. that use learning materials based on the ideas of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the church of Scientology. Five of these schools and tutoring centers, including Clearwater Academy, receive public funding through voucher or tax credit scholarship programs, HuffPost has found.

    While Cantrell said he was never asked to participate in Scientologist events, he realized that most of his classmates were deeply involved in the church ― participating in events like an off-campus party for Hubbard’s birthday.

    After a few months at the school, Cantrell decided he wanted out and he spent the rest of the year slacking off. School leaders eventually asked him to leave ― for which Cantrell was grateful.

    “I don’t feel like I learned anything there other than that basically Scientology was obviously not something that I wanted to do,” said Cantrell, now 25 years old.

    Clearwater Academy is a private institution, which means that in general, the school can teach what it likes with little oversight. But the learning materials it uses raises questions about its links to the Church of Scientology, in light of the school receiving more than $500,000 in taxpayer money for student scholarships between 2012-2016.

    HuffPost has been investigating the schools that receive such money for students, which comes via state-level voucher or tax credit programs.

    Over the course of our investigation, we created a database of almost 8,000 schools in the country that participate in these programs and researched what each was teaching. Our first story, published earlier this month, broke down how many religious schools were receiving such funds and dove deep into the curriculums often used in evangelical Christian schools.

    But we also came across Clearwater Academy and the four other schools and tutoring centers that use curriculum by Applied Scholastics, a non-profit that says it is non-religious but is dedicated to spreading educational methods developed by Hubbard.

    An overwhelming proportion of private schools that participate in state-run, so-called school choice programs that help students afford them -– like vouchers and tax credits ― are religious, and say so upfront. But the schools that use Applied Scholastics claim to be totally secular.

    As Applied Scholastics schools continue to receive millions of dollars in taxpayer funds and are therefore more accountable to the public than typical private schools, their claims of secularity deserve heightened scrutiny.

    Our investigation comes at a time when President Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, his secretary of education, have made it a priority to expand voucher and tax credit programs like the ones in Florida.

    Continued at
  39. The Wrong Guy Member

    For the first time: The FBI file of Gabe Cazares, the Clearwater mayor targeted by Scientology

    By Tony Ortega, December 12, 2017


    On August 3, 1976, Gabe Cazares, the Texas-born mayor of Clearwater, Florida, contacted the FBI with a complaint about a letter that had been mailed to several Florida Democratic Party officials.

    By the summer of 1976, Cazares had been putting up with several months of intense harassment by the Church of Scientology, and he knew immediately that the letter was just the latest “operation” being run against him.

    The letter accused him of being a passenger in a car that had been in a hit-and-run accident in Washington DC and had possibly killed someone. The letter writer claimed that she was behind the wheel during the accident, and that Cazares had been “a good guy” about it, but she worried that their secret was going to ruin his political career. The letter hinted that Cazares had been in the car for illicit reasons, which is why he had asked the driver to keep the accident quiet.

    When Cazares heard about the letter from a local newspaper reporter, he knew he had to act, and fast.

    The FBI investigation which then took place turned out to be a pretty interesting study in chasing down bad leads and then getting stunning information from a key Church of Scientology defector.

    And now, for the first time, we have the full story of that investigation — as well as some evidence for why it never resulted in criminal charges being filed.

    Thanks to our dogged researcher, R.M. Seibert, we now have the Gabe Cazares FBI file, and we’re making it public today.

    Continued at

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