SAFETY HARBOR — As everyone yanked support for a registered sex offender's upcoming Guinness World Record fundraiser on Thursday, officials in Safety Harbor maintained they had no legal reason to prevent Thomas Edward Lynch from proceeding with his event.
"To our knowledge, Mr. Lynch has complied with every requirement of his release," City Manager Matt Spoor said at the time. "Further, I have been told that Mr. Lynch has no plans to cancel his rental."
Friday morning, city officials announced that they called the New Port Richey man late Thursday and told him that he could not attempt the world's longest wheelchair wheelie at the Safety Harbor Community Center on Saturday as planned.
They didn't arrive at that decision because of revelations this week that Lynch, 45, sexually abused or sodomized at least four boys in the 1990s. Though Lynch proclaimed his innocence, New York state officials described him as a "sexually violent offender" and listed him as a "risk level 3," the worst possible designation for sexual offenders.
"City staff did not receive timely or proper facility rental payment from his sponsors as promised," Spoor said in an e-mail.
Safety Harbor spokesman Brad Purdy said no one informed Spoor of that fact until "well after 10" Thursday night. The record-setting event was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday.
"Looks like it was just a staff oversight," Purdy said in another e-mail. "The security deposit of $100 should have been paid two weeks before the scheduled event, on July 31."
Purdy said he knows the city's changing stance looks "weird," but "it is most certainly not an about-face.
"We were presented with new information that the deposit hadn't been made, then we decided to cancel the rental. We were unaware of that through this whole process.
"The deposit not being made wouldn't be something that a staff member would elevate to the level of the city manager, but because of all the attention that was on the event, he was notified."
Thursday, as new details about Lynch's past emerged, his Guinness attempt began to unravel. The mother of the event's teenage beneficiary disassociated herself. So did WKID-FM 96.7, a Clearwater radio station owned and operated by children, and Bet Me I'm Lying, a Largo band with members as young as 12.
WKID was scheduled to broadcast live from the Community Center. Bet Me I'm Lying was slated to perform.
"Circumstances have changed," said Donna Cardullo, the mother of Brock Cardullo.
Fliers for Lynch's event asked for donations for Brock, who has cystic fibrosis.
"We're not involved in that in any shape or form," Donna Cardullo said.
"She wants absolutely nothing to do with this and we feel exactly the same," said Rodger Baker, who started WKID to keep children off the street and safe. "We were going there to do this benefit for Brock and now that we found out that Brock will not be benefiting, we have backed out ourselves. We will not be supporting any sexual offenders."
Lynch, who earlier this week said he didn't think it was necessary to share details of his past with the parents of the children or the city, declined to comment when a St. Petersburg Times reporter called Friday morning.
"Whether or not this event takes off because of this article," he told the reporter on Wednesday, "I want people to keep in mind that the ones who know me know who I am and respect that. I'm open to people."
Rodney Thrash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4167.