Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

County must pay in case against Scientology-affiliated rehab

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County got off easy when a jury levied just $74,000 in penalties after finding discrimination in a 2009 land-use decision. But the county was not so lucky in the matter of paying the other side's costs.

Last month, the county reached an agreement to pay $425,000 in attorneys fees, expert witness fees and other costs over the federal lawsuit that Toucan Partners and Narconon brought against the county over denying an expansion in an existing drug rehabilitation center.

Narconon is a drug rehabilitation program based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, and is financially supported by Scientologists.

Also, the case is not yet finished.

A mediation over a potential appeal is scheduled for later this month, according to Cristi Charlow, the county's risk manager.

The fees the county owes will be paid by Travelers Insurance, the county's carrier.

Toucan Partners LLC, the owners of the Suncoast Rehabilitation Center on Cessna Drive in Spring Hill, sought to expand from 22 to 54 beds in 2009. Residents surrounding the 3-acre parcel argued that a drug rehab center was not compatible with their neighborhood.

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the permit, but it was overturned several weeks later by the County Commission.

Toucan Partners and Narconon Spring Hill Inc., the operator of the facility, took the county first to circuit court, then to federal court.

Earlier this year, a jury found that Hernando County violated the federal Fair Housing Act by intentionally discriminating against Narconon.

Other counts of the federal suit were settled in the county's favor, and, while Toucan Partners and Narconon sought $6.24 million in damages, the jury awarded just $74,000 and attorney's fees to Narconon. The jury awarded nothing to Toucan Partners.

Earlier this year, the center announced plans to expand to meet the growing need for drug treatment but was unsuccessful in getting the federal judge to require the county grant a new permit as part of the lawsuit conclusion. To date, no new application has been made for that expansion.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

Comments

Deputies: Cheerleading coach sent explicit images to 16-year-old

A 28-year-old cheerleading coach faces charges for engaging in "inappropriate behavior" with a 16-year-old girl, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Victor Martin Valenty faces 10 counts of traveling to meet a minor, distributing ob...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
St. Pete police: Three lieutenants lied about their work hours

St. Pete police: Three lieutenants lied about their work hours

ST. PETERSBURG — Three lieutenants responsible for supervising the police officers who patrol the city were found to have been faking their work hours instead of showing up for duty on time.In some cases, the watch commanders submitted time sheets st...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Trade him. Waive him. Cut him.Whatever.Just get rid of him.Jameis Winston should never play another game for the Tampa Bay Bucs.Plain and simple, he's a bad guy and the Bucs should have nothing more to do with him.He's already going to miss the first...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Deputies: Zephyrhills bank robbed, suspect flees on bicycle

Deputies: Zephyrhills bank robbed, suspect flees on bicycle

A Suntrust Bank in Zephyr-hills was robbed early Thursday afternoon, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.At 12:50 p.m., deputies said, the man walked into the bank at 34511 State Road 54 and presented a note demanding money, though he did ...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

The NFL will suspend Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston at least three games without pay for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Winston's suspension could be increased if he fails to meet certain undisclosed requirements expected to be...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

The news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start the upcoming season likely means that the Bucs will have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in at quarterback for three crucial games.Fitzpatrick stepped in as a starter for three games last year when W...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

TAMPA — The Bucs will open the upcoming season without the face of their franchise, as quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended three games by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy.Winston, 24, was accused of groping a ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

TAMPA — When the 2008 financial crash brought down the nation’s housing market, hundreds of home builders went out of business. Among them was Sharon McSwain Homes in Atlanta, forced to liquidate in 2009.But just as developers like to develop, builde...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Medal of Honor recipient tells teachers to push kids up, not out

Medal of Honor recipient tells teachers to push kids up, not out

Gary Littrell spent the first 17 years of his life in "survival mode." Then he joined the U.S. Army and was shipped off to Vietnam.Littrell was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor in 1973, for actions he took that saved lives.The award honored his...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 2 hours ago