Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


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

[Monique Yingling is now angling for both Winter the Dolphin and Commissioner Janet Long]

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

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

On April 20, Clearwater’s city council voted unanimously to purchase a 1.4-acre empty lot next to City Hall for $4.25 million from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter the Dolphin, the star of Dolphin Tale and known for her prosthetic tail. At one time the aquarium planned on a downtown expansion on the empty lot, but the parcel is also adjacent to a couple of very important hotels owned by the Church of Scientology, which worked to kill the aquarium expansion effort behind the scenes.

The aquarium later committed to selling the lot to the city as Clearwater makes a desperate attempt to resuscitate its downtown, which was invaded by Scientology under a fake name in 1975 and is home to the church’s “Flag Land Base.” Scientology leader David Miscavige made it known that he wanted the parcel for a hotel swimming pool, but his former spokesman, Mike Rinder, said the more likely reason was simply to keep non-Scientologists away. Miscavige tried to pressure the city not to buy the parcel, even enlisting church celebrities John Travolta, Kelly Preston, and Kirstie Alley, and raising the church’s offer to $15 million. But the aquarium stayed committed to selling to the city, which approved the sale with its unanimous vote.

Last week, Scientology retaliated by sending what is known in the church as a “dead agent pack” — a collection of opposition research — to the county board of commissioners as well as to state lawmakers and the Florida attorney general’s office. It featured a seven-page letter by Yingling, attacking the county’s plan to give the aquarium $26 million in tourist tax money. (A completely separate proposal than the land sale.) As we reported, the board of commissioners dismissed Scientology’s concerns and remarked that it was bad timing for it to dump so much information on them just a day before the proposal was discussed and tentatively approved by the board at a public hearing.


After that hearing, the aquarium’s CEO David Yates and its board chairman, John Draheim, submitted a column to the Tampa Bay Times answering Yingling’s accusations. Pinellas County Board Chair Janet Long, meanwhile, told the Times that Scientology had lost credibility with her after it had told her it wasn’t going to purchase more downtown properties but then did so surreptitiously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After you digest that one, we’ll continue.

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

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

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

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

Shame! Shame!

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

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

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

The transparency, it’s blinding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the letter…



Countdown to Denver!


HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25 at the Residence Inn Denver City Center. Go here to start making your plans, and book your room soon!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,739 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,842 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,336 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,376 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,088 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 614 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,703 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,843 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,163 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,138 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 494 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,796 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 903 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,305 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,178 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 759 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,264 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,508 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,617 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 3, 2017 at 15:50

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email