CLEARWATER--Mayor George Cretekos wrote a short note to Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige before Thanksgiving, congratulating him on the church's "successful opening" of the Flag Building on Nov. 17.
For three months prior to the celebration, city officials had butted heads with church leaders over permits, illegally cutting trees and other violations. The church paid fines and was cited by the city's Code Enforcement Board for a massive tent wrap that the city deemed a sign.
Cretekos had said he wanted a fresh start.
"I hope that we will now enter a new era of cooperation and understanding between the church and the city," Cretekos wrote on Nov. 21.
Miscavige was traveling and didn't respond personally, but church spokeswoman Pat Harney called Cretekos last week.
Harney called to "advise me that they had received it and they would touch base with me later," Cretekos said.
On Thursday, the same night of Harney's call to Cretekos, Mark Bunker, a Clearwater resident and longtime church critic, told the City Council that it shouldn't seek to thaw relations with the church.
He noted Cretekos' stated desire to reset relations and said that the city should instead talk with Mike Rinder or Marty Rathbun, former Scientologist leaders who are now critics of the church.
"I know it's a lot easier to turn a blind eye to Scientology, but it's not the right thing to do," Bunker said during the citizen comment section of the meeting.
The council didn't respond to Bunker's three-minute speech.