Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Company wants drug program's Scientologist ties kept out of lawsuit against Hernando County

BROOKSVILLE — There are a couple of points that officials at Clearwater-based Toucan Partners LLC don't want coming up at next month's federal trial against Hernando County.

They don't want any mention of the Church of Scientology. Nor do they want anyone to talk about recent deaths at a Scientology-related drug rehabilitation program.

Toucan Partners is the company that owns the land off Cessna Drive that currently houses the Suncoast Rehabilitation Center.

In recent depositions of those connected with both entities, the county's attorney has asked about the program's connections to Scientology and the problems at similar rehab centers.

The questions specifically focused on how knowledge of those things might affect the decisions of potential patients to choose the Spring Hill facility.

In 2009, the Hernando County Commission turned down the company's proposal to expand from 21 to 54 beds on the 3-acre site. Commissioners cited incompatibility with the adjacent residential neighborhood among their reasons.

Toucan Partners sued, first in Circuit Court and then, in June 2011, in federal court, claiming the county had discriminated against disabled people, specifically recovering drug and alcohol abusers.

The company is seeking more than $6 million in damages for lost income from an expanded center, in addition to attorney's fees and other costs.

Last week, attorneys for Toucan filed two separate motions. One asks the judge to stop the county from mentioning the connection between Narconon, the company that operates the rehab center, and the controversial Church of Scientology.

The other seeks to keep the county from mentioning incidents that have happened at other Narconon facilities, including the recent deaths of four patients at Narconon's signature treatment facility in Oklahoma.

The Narconon program uses life skills courses modeled on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Many Scientologists also support the program philosophically and financially, and it is featured prominently on the Scientology website.

"These items are just not relevant in a claim of failure to afford proper treatment to disabled people,'' Joe Mason, a Brooksville attorney representing Toucan Partners, said Friday.

The Oklahoma deaths, Mason said, "have nothing to do with granting a proper land use'' for the rehab center. And any mention of Scientology "could only be used to inflame a jury,'' Mason said. "The sole issue is whether Hernando County discriminated against recovering addicts.''

Doug Noah, the attorney the county chose to defend it in federal court, did not return a phone call from the Times on Friday.

During the original hearing on the expansion, the County Commission heard from representatives of the rehab center and from neighbors who were concerned about the impact an expanded center could have on their community. Originally, the site was used as an adult congregate care center, but that use ended when Toucan Partners bought the property in 2008.

The federal suit was brought by the landowners based on alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act and discrimination against the handicapped, allegations the county denies.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

Company wants drug program's Scientologist ties kept out of lawsuit against Hernando County 12/07/12 [Last modified: Friday, December 7, 2012 8:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars


    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  2. Late night update: Second wave follows Tropical Storm Harvey


    UPDATE: At 11 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  3. Stealth anti-Jack Latvala group tied to Adam Putnam campaign


    Politico reports:

     A longtime political consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is behind a website calling one of his rivals in the race, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a “liberal.”

  4. Council gives in to pension dispute with St. Pete firefighters

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council was forced to consider its first labor dispute in years Thursday when it gave the firefighters union most of the pension enhancements it has long asked for.

    The firefighters’ union won a pension victory at Thursday’s City Council meeting. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES]
  5. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half



    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.