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Bank sues defunct visitors panel

The defunct Pasco County Visitors and Convention Bureau, already riddled with debt, became the target of a foreclosure lawsuit Thursday by a bank seeking $31,840 repayment on a 1998 loan.

According to the complaint filed on behalf of Regions Bank in Dade City, the VCB borrowed $35,000 in 1998 and was supposed to make $735 monthly payments until 2003. But the visitors board stopped paying in May of last year, the suit claims.

The loan was made through Village Bank in Hudson, but that bank merged with Regions Bank, according to the lawsuit.

The Visitors and Convention Bureau was formed in 1997 as an offshoot of the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce and spent two years financing and building a Wesley Chapel welcome center, which opened in February of last year.

But the organization ran up more than $100,000 in debt, and when Pasco County commissioners refused to pump taxpayer money into it last month, the board's executive director, Frank Starkey, told commissioners the VCB would have to disband and close the welcome center.

In a letter to commissioners, Starkey blamed the news media for questioning the credibility of his organization.

The suit filed Thursday also names former VCB directors and employees Mark E. Tolle, Richard D. Kyle and Kathy Dedomenico.

Starkey could not be reached Thursday, and Regions Bank attorney Theo Karaphillis declined to comment.