Seems I neglected to post this letter last week. I sent it to the SP Times, The Tampa Tribune and Mike Roberto. I didn't expect it to be published but I felt like venting:
St. Petersburg Times
July 6, 2000
After attending the final downtown development meeting at the Clearwater Public Library, Wednesday night, I am greatly concerned not only about the downtown itself but also about the quality of the people working on behalf of the city.
Assistant City Manager Bob Keller introduced the proceedings and acted as an emcee for the event. He made it clear from the outset that, unlike other meetings, he would make sure there was an air of civility and that people from both sides of the argument would be allowed to speak and not be heckled.
The first one to break this rule was Bob Keller.
Early on, in the questions and answers period, Bob Keller was near me so I raised my hand for permission to speak. When he brought the microphone over I introduced myself by name and said I worked downtown with Bob Minton and the Lisa McPherson Trust. By the time I finished saying this he had bolted from me and dashed to the far side of the crowded room saying, "Let's get some informational questions."
The crowd largely didn't understand what had happened and were baffled that I wasn't allowed to speak. People were saying "What was that all about?" and buzzing about it for the next few minutes. Some of the people in the crowd knew exactly what it was about. They knew I was going to say the dreaded word "Scientology."
Not one to be ignored, I stood up and waited against the wall for another chance to speak. I wanted to make sure that Bob Keller and everyone who saw what had happened would know I expected a fair chance to speak.
Finally, a half hour later, Bob Keller knew he had to allow me to speak. As he stood with his back to me, he addressed the crowd and set up my question by saying that he was looking for "a legitimate question and this was not a place for bigotry." When I spoke, I told him and the crowd that I was offended that he should mention bigotry because he knew I was going to use the word "Scientology."
I asked my question, which was simply to have the developers respond to the poll numbers from last Sunday's St. Petersburg Times which said two thirds of those polled felt Scientology would be the primary beneficiary of the development and that nearly one hundred percent polled felt they wouldn't come downtown no matter how the vote went.
A simple question, but Bob Keller's comments about my "bigotry" cast a pall on others who wished to speak. One woman got up a little while later, almost ashamed, and apologizing for saying that she thought a lot of people don't come downtown..."because of...well...I don't want to seem prejudiced...but a certain...group...of...people."
Scientology has a bad reputation for a good reason. They brought it on themselves by sneaking into town under an assumed name, plotting to take over the town and smearing the name of Gabe Cazares. Things haven't changed. Just last week, the latest issue of Stern Magazine in Germany detailed the deceptive ways a German Scientologist gained political asylum in the U.S. by providing the government with phony documents manufactured by Scientologists. That woman is living in Clearwater today.
After the meeting I went up to Bob Keller and offered my hand, saying "I hope you don't really believe I'm a bigot." He was shaken but responded, "Yes, I do." I tried to explain the practices of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs and a bit of the history of Scientology in Clearwater since he admitted that he had only lived here three years. I tried to politely explain about Scientology's plan to take over the city of Clearwater, code-named Operation Normandy, and the dirty tricks to which Mayor Gabe Cazares was subjected. But Keller wouldn't listen to me at all. He repeatedly called me "nothing more than a bigot" as he walked away from me.
Now, he may believe me to be a bigot, but I am willing to sit and talk to anyone openly at any time, even to someone who is calling me names. I find it appalling that a representative of the city in such a high profile position would treat any citizen this way.
Clearwater will never revitalize it's downtown until it confronts the reality that it has a dangerous, paramilitary organization marching through its streets, its downtown doomed to be nothing more than L. Ron Hubbard Square.
Mark Bunker, Producer Lisa McPherson Trust Media
Now, here's the second half of the events from that night.
Toward the end of the evening, I spotted Gabe Cazares in the front row and went over to shake his hand. Gabe and I went outside and spoke for a bit while the meeting broke up. Gabe departed and I started to chat with a couple people about the meeting.
One fellow in his 50's came up to me and said "I don't care if there are Scientologists or Baptists downtown. I feel safe here and leave my car windows open and doors unlocked."
I asked if he knew anything about Scientology and he admitted he had several old friends who were Scientologists. I asked if he was aware of Operation Normandy and briefly explained the raids and what was discovered by the FBI. He told me that he didn't trust the FBI or any government agency. They make up things all the time. With this I felt it was hopeless and there was a very good chance he was in fact a Scientologist but I kept conversing with him for 15 or 20 minutes.
I brought up Gabe and the operations run on Gabe. Aha! This he knew something about. He had done some research on this, he told me. He found out Gabe and his buddies wanted to buy the Ft. Harrison Hotel and when Scientology snatched it out from under him, he launched a vendetta against the group to destroy them.
No amount of reasoning or facts could sway this man from his belief about Gabe so I figured he either is a Scientologist or he fully accepts their party line but, as I enjoy speaking about Gabe, I continued to chat with the man. I'm glad I did for suddenly out came Al Buttnor who walked over to us and said to the man, "Is he feeding you propoganda?"
I politely introduced Al in case this man was unfamiliar with him and Al actually joined in the conversation...which is to say, he said more to me than "Why don't you just leave."
Al said again that Operation Normandy was 30 years ago and didn't matter anymore. What's important is what's happening now...for instance, I was arrested in Chicago. He likes to bring that subject up. However I make it a point to never bring up his Canadian charges.
He then told the man that I was paid to lie by Minton.
"OH HOOOOOOOOOOOO," the man exclaimed! "I know something about Scientology and that is what they would call a Withhold! You withheld that information from me. Now it all makes sense. You're being paid to say these things."
I said, "Excuse me but I stood up in the meeting and said, 'Hello, my name is Mark Bunker. I work downtown with Bob Minton and the Lisa McPherson Trust.' Exactly what did I withhold from you."
Al said "This time he mentioned it. He hasn't done that before."
Well, by now the man was convinced I was an SP so the conversation ended.
As they left I saw a ponytailed older dude on a bicycle who had been watching the conversation. He told me I was lying about everything and that I knew nothing about Ethics. I asked him a bit about Hubbard's life and why Source had so many problems with wives and kids and ended up hiding in the desert. He seemed to think that Hubbard found himself surrounded by the wrong people who couldn't follow the tech.
This man was Richard Hurst and he made a point of calling Stacy a whore and saying he had worked with Vaughn Young and he was a nasty son of a bitch whom the church was lucky to be rid of. I invited him to have lunch with me someday to discuss these things and he told me he would wouldn't waste his time.
Oddly, the next day, he showed up in the LMT offices to call us all liars. When he showed that he wasn't interested in hearing any of the facts or reading any of the handouts from newpapers or magazines, he was invited to leave.