The Lisa McPherson
Trust opens in Clearwater
From: Stacy Brooks
As of January 6, 2000, the Lisa McPherson Trust is open for business at 33 N. Ft. Harrison in downtown Clearwater. It's been an interesting few days, to say the least. On Tuesday, January 4, Mark Bunker, David Cecere, Patricia Greenway, Peter Alexander and I welcomed Bob Minton, Jesse Prince, Grady Ward and Duncan Pierce, who all flew into town for the closing of the new building.
Scott Brauer, the CPA who sold Bob the building, met us on Wednesday, January 5, at 3:00 for the closing. Scott told us that over the weekend he had had repeated phone calls from Ben Shaw, and that the calls had continued up until 1:00 that afternoon. Ben was trying to get Scott to agree to pull out of the deal with Bob by offering him nearly double the amount and promising to indemnify him against any litigation that might result, but Scott refused, much to Ben's dismay. We told Scott for the hundredth time how much we appreciated his integrity and courage. Scott's attitude all along has been clear and straightforward. "I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror every morning," he said with a shrug.
Tom Tobin of the St. Petersburg Times came to the building and interviewed Scott Brauer and Bob for a story that ran the next day. Marty Rathbun seems to have replaced Mike Rinder as the Scientologist in charge of dealing with the media on Lisa McPherson Trust matters. We aren't sure but are assuming Mike Rinder was busted because he didn't prevent us from getting our building.
Peter Alexander and Patricia Greenway, both Lisa McPherson Trust board members, were also on hand for the closing. We had a great time inspecting all the new offices and deciding where everyone should sit. At one point we all stepped out the back door on Watterson Street to marvel at the OSA security personnel, who kept ducking inside the Clearwater Bank Building two doors away every time one of us took a step in their direction. Ottavio's, an excellent Italian restaurant three doors down from us on N. Ft. Harrison, sent over a bottle of Merlot and a plate of bruschetta as a welcoming present for their new neighbors.
Some of you may remember the column by Rick Barry that ran in the Tampa Tribune on Dec. 11 titled "Bob Minton: Will he rouse the gorilla?" in which he referred to Bob and the others involved in the Lisa McPherson Trust as "parrots."
Then we all gathered for dinner at the Clearwater Beach Hotel and it turned out to be a grand celebration. The next day Bob, David, Jesse, Grady, Duncan and I were all at the office by 8:00 for a full day of hard work to get the offices up and running. Grady took charge of the new locks and alarm system, getting a DSL line in the office, and ordering new doors for the building. I found a window washer, Jesse fixed the battery on my laptop, Duncan drafted an administrative checklist for the office, David got the photocopy machine running, and Bob disappeared for a few hours only to return with two new computers and a printer, as well as a big bag of office supplies. By the end of the day the two computers were set up, the carpets were vacuumed, the coffee makers were working, and phones were operational. Probably the best image of the day was Bob Minton sweeping the entrance to the Lisa McPherson Trust out on North Fort Harrison.
He said Josh came into the restaurant after the St. Pete Times article ran about the closing. The article had mentioned that a local restaurant sent over wine and bruschetta, and Josh came in to say, "Was that Ottavio's that sent over wine and bruschetta?" Robert said he told him yes, it sure was, and he was really glad to have us in the neighborhood because we're good customers at the restaurant. Apparently at that point Josh began reciting the usual dead agenting material about us - he said Robert didn't realize how violent we are and how dangerous it is that we are moving in. Robert replied that he felt like he was on the playground in kindergarten. He told Josh that he is a businessman and that we are good customers, and that's the end of the conversation.
Scott just told him they didn't need to have the conversation because Bob Minton already owned the building, as of 3:45 that afternoon. Another unnerving moment occurred when the phone man discovered a wire on our main phone line that wasn't supposed to be there. Was it a bug? We'll never know for sure. The phone man said it could be an old arrangement between two offices to share a line, or it could be something more sinister, but there was really no way to tell for sure. Grady has now arranged for a security measure on the phone lines that will allow us to determine if anyone has tampered with them.
That night Bob, Grady, Jesse, Mark, Duncan, David and I went to Ottavio's for a great dinner. Robert greeted us with yet another story. Mike Roberto's aide had come into the restaurant earlier and immediately brought up the Lisa McPherson Trust. He told Robert it was World War 3 between the Trust and Scientology and that he had better stay out of it. Robert just shook his head in amazement as he told me the story. I told him it's not true that it's World War 3, that we aren't here to wage a war; we're here to educate people and help Scientologists.
Friday we finalized all of our insurance, got our alarm system ordered, worked out where Mark's editing studio will be, and got more computers up and running. We also got our first scanner set up. A man stopped by who said he lives in Clearwater and has had lots of questions about Scientology but never knew where he could go for answers. Bob spent quite a bit of time talking to him and later I sat in the conference room with him for half an hour telling him how I got into Scientology, what it was like, what auditing is, and many other things he wanted to know. He said he wants to come find out more once we're set up, and I told him he'd be welcome any time. Another man stopped by to find out about us and David and Duncan spent time telling him about the Trust, and Lisa, and Scientology. A local businessman dropped by to give us his card. He said he was glad to see us coming to town because it's been really rough on the local business people in Clearwater, that the Scientologists have boycotted his business because he had the 1991 Time magazine article in his reception area one day and some Scientologists saw it. I promised him we'd give him as much business as we can.
Friday night we all went home and got to bed early. It had been an exhausting few days and everyone needed a good night's sleep. Saturday morning we all met at the office and spent just about the entire day in a meeting. It was Bob, Jesse, David, Grady, Patricia, Peter, Mark and I, and we hammered out the broad strokes of a list of specific abuses that the Trust will ask Scientology to do away with. Once it's finalized I will post it. It was an excellent meeting and helped all of us focus on what our work will be all about at the Trust. We ordered pizza for lunch, and the guy who delivered them said right away when he came into reception, "I'm not a Scientologist, I just want you to know." I thanked him for telling me, and he said he was really glad to see us coming to Clearwater because maybe people will stop being so afraid of the Scientologists now. I told him we'll sure do everything we can to help the local businesses.
He went out the Watterson Street door with a picket sign that said "It's safe to look" on one side and "It's safe to talk" on the other and began picketing on the sidewalk across the street from the main cafeteria entrance of the Clearwater Bank Building. Grady went out with a sign that said "The Lisa McPherson Trust" on one side and our phone number, "467-9335" on the other and picketed on the sidewalk right in front of the Clearwater Bank Building on Cleveland and then in front of the cafeteria door.
Jesse went to take a look at his old stomping grounds, because he spent a lot of time in the Clearwater Bank Building when he was in the Sea Org at Flag. Mark Bunker went along to video the event. It was in the middle of the dinner hour, so as Bob and Grady picketed, the Flag buses were arriving to deliver the outer org students for dinner and pick up other students to take them back to course. Close to three hundred students were there, walking right past Grady on the west side of Watterson and Bob on the east side as they went into the dining room or left to get back on the buses. As the students piled out of the buses, Bob called out to them, "It's safe to look! It's safe to talk!" Then he said to them, "Make Scientology an organization you can be proud of! L. Ron Hubbard would never have approved of the way David Miscavige is trying to destroy Scientology." He also said, "Reform Scientology now! Dump David Miscavige!" and "Reform Scientology now! Make it an organization you can be proud of!" Because they were on their way to have dinner, Bob told them, "Take your knives and forks and bang them on the table and demand reforms now!" Then he called out, "We're from the Lisa McPherson Trust. We're here in Clearwater at 33 North Fort Harrison Avenue. We're here to help you. If you have trouble with Scientology you can call us at 467-9335." Grady said the most poignant moment for him was when a young boy, probably ten, walked out of the building to get on a bus. He stopped about two feet away from Grady and looked at his sign. His gaze lingered for a few seconds too long, so a security guard got between Grady and the boy and pushed him toward the bus. As the boy was herded away, Grady said to him, "If you're free, why is that man telling you what to do?"
The picket lasted for about a half an hour. Bob, Grady, Jesse and Mark all returned to the office very enthusiastic about how powerful the picket had been, because they had been able to reach so many Scientologists with the right message. It was impossible for the OSA people to control it, so the reach of the message was far more powerful than any picket they had ever done before. There was no way to hide all the Scientologists and many of them appeared to be very interested in what the people from the Lisa McPherson Trust had to say.
As they told me about what had happened they were so excited and happy about having reached so many Scientologists that they decided to go out again for another short picket to catch the last batch of students as they left after dinner. But when they went out the door they saw Mike Rinder, Ben Shaw and several other OSA staff members gathered around a police car. Rinder was waving a sheaf of papers, which, as they got closer, they realized was a copy of the injunction. Bob went to the other side of the street and continued to hold his sign up as the students poured out of the building.
I had been handling my email while all of this was going on. When I finished I strolled outside with Maggie to see how the picket was going and discovered several squad cars and a crowd of OSA people and LMT people all gathered around the police officer, who was interviewing Grady. When Maggie and I walked up Grady was saying, "I'm not Bob Minton's employee. Stacy Brooks is my boss." When he saw me he said, "And as a matter of fact, here she is." The police officer looked at me and said, "Oh! Are you Stacy?" I introduced myself and Maggie, and then the police officer started interviewing me. I explained that Bob is the Chairman of the Board of the Lisa McPherson Trust but that neither I nor any of the others are his employees. The police officer thought we might be his agents since we're employees of the Trust, although she wasn't sure.
Once the police officer had finished talking with the Scientologists and the LMT staff, they went across the street to speak with Bob. Bob explained to the police officers that he had met Police Chief Klein as well as one of the police captains responsible for this area of town at the offices of Denis deVlaming just before the December picket. The purpose of this meeting was for the police to clarify their interpretation of the mutual restraining orders issued against Richard Howd and Bob Minton. Chief Klein was very clear in his statements as to how the police would interpret this complicated injunction, namely, that the injunction would apply only to Richard Howd and Bob Minton. However, in the event that Bob Minton entered into a zone within ten feet of the Scientology properties listed in the restraining order, then everyone in that zone would be considered an agent of Bob Minton and would be arrested if Bob refused to leave after being given one warning. Bob was at all times well outside the ten-foot zone last night, and therefore it appeared that Mike Rinder was trying to pull the wool over the police officers' eyes.
In fact, we learned this morning that Police Chief Klein is out of town, and so is the captain who controls this area and his subordinate. Therefore, last night and today, someone who was not privy to the instructions given by Police Chief Klein in December is controlling this area of town. Bob's attorneys are trying to sort the matter out with the police today so that there will be no misunderstanding in the future. We expect the clarification to happen before dinner tonight. Until then, we're all staying at least ten feet away from the Scientology buildings, even Maggie. When Bob spoke to Denis deVlaming about this incident, by the way, he told Bob that Scientology approached at least one Clearwater property owner at the end of last week and offered to purchase an option for a right of first refusal to purchase their one block of property, located right behind the Lisa McPherson Trust, if Bob Minton makes an offer to purchase their property. Mark's video report of the picket and the encounter with the police afterward will be up shortly. As you can see, it's not going to be boring to be part of the Lisa McPherson Trust. We haven't even been here a week and already we seem to have made quite an impression.
Everywhere I go in Clearwater -- whether it's to get my hair cut, or to buy a new blouse, or to get a key made, or to buy groceries - as soon as I tell people what my job is they tell me how glad they are that the Lisa McPherson Trust has come to town. They glance behind them to make sure no one is listening, and then they lean toward me and lower their voices. Can you tell me what Scientology really is? They ask me. What are they really doing here? Why do they always turn their heads when I walk by? Why won't they say hello? Why are they so secretive? Why are people so afraid of them? People have so many questions about Scientology, and finally an organization exists to tell people about the true nature of the current Scientology management and its abusive and harassive practices. We have great plans for the office and for the projects we'll launch in Clearwater. The community is excited about our arrival, and filled with hope that we'll change things in this city. I think we will. Our phone number is 727-467-9335. We'd love to hear from you. Our web site will be up soon. Watch for the grand opening of LMT Media, and in the meantime visit www.xenutv.com for an excellent video about the closing. We'll keep you posted.