Monday, July 21, 2014

SLAPP suit against former Miamian Maggie Hurchalla draws a plea for financial help … by gimleteye

Miami billionaire George Lindemann Jr. has been engaged in a bitter lawsuit against one of Florida's environmental leaders, Maggie Hurchalla. Lindemann, a well-known Miami real estate developer, invested property he has converted to a rock mine at the edge of the Everglades Agricultural Area; Florida's black hole. According to Wikipedia, "A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition."

A 2008 issue brief to the Florida Senate notes, "What … distinguishes a SLAPP is that the apparent motive behind it is to prevent the SLAPP defendant from exercising his or her constitutionally protected right to petition or to penalize him or her for doing so. It is for this reason, opponents of SLAPPs argue, that the filer typically does not prevail in the action in court. The filer, however, may “succeed” if the litigation costs and time divert the SLAPP defendant from pursing the political activity that prompted the litigation. Because deciphering the motives of the plaintiff may be difficult, research and legislation on the topic of SLAPPs often focus instead on the nature of the conduct giving rise to the litigation in the first place (i.e., addressing a governmental agency)."

Hurchalla, a former Martin County commissioner whose suburban sprawl positions won her both admirers and then the enmity of Florida's pro-growth elites, is an environmentalist who grew up in Miami with siblings including former US attorney general Janet Reno. Lindemann according to Hurchalla has "an interesting history", including board leadership in the Bass Museum and as a major art collector. Although the family fortune derives from New York City cable TV -- the family is one of the largest shareholders of Verizon -- , Lindemann proved an astute investor in the early 2000s on Biscayne Boulevard and then looked north to the scramble for property rights at the edge of the Everglades for more lucrative opportunities.

The history how the state of Florida empowered developers to reach out and choke civic opponents of individual projects is one of those tales that deserves a book of its own, with SLAPP suits a central chapter. The book's theme would be how the gradual whittling down of legal standing for Floridians has been accompanied by an unbalanced grab for power by the state, by corporations and shareholders.

I am going to contribute to Maggie's "SLAPP-back fund" and I hope our readers will, too … The following words are Maggie's:

MAGGY’S SLAPP-BACK FUND PO Box 891, Stuart, Fl. 34995

In January of 2013 I became the subject of a SLAPP Suit filed by the Lake Point rockpit people. That’s a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. It’s something that developers do to shut down public discussion through fear of massive legal fees.

If you want to know about the grandiose claims for the project which is being marketed to Asian investors, go to:

Lake Point Capital Partners

After the rapid sell-out success of Lake Point EcoVentures Phase I Limited Partnership, the $10M/20 EB-5 investor loan-based program marketed in 2011, Lake Point’s principals and the General Partners of American Venture Solutions Regional Center decided to make a second $10M private offering, this one based in equity.

Now: if you look at most equity participation structures in EB-5 Projects, you will find that the EB-5 investor’s real capital stake is invariably diluted with administrative fees, inflated valuations, and the like. That’ s not how we do business. Instead, the 20 Lake Point Capital Partners EB-5 Limited Partners will own an 10% actual interest in Lake Point Holdings, which has appraised in excess of U.S. $100 Million. This dollar-for-dollar investment is not subject to balloon repayment and will not receive interest payments… it is instead intended for the true venture capital EB-5 Investor who wishes to remain alongside for the ride with the Lindemann Group until some point in the future when the Project is sold, merged, or otherwise liquidated. While no at-risk investment can guarantee solid returns, the historical success of the Lindemann Group is unparalleled in EB-5 offerings and offers a real, bona fide capital venture opportunity to participate directly with a Forbes group of investors seeking to maximize profit realizations for their investment in Lake Point.

The project originally claimed to be a polo club. Then it claimed to be the key to saving the Everglades and the Indian River Lagoon. Then they said it would sell water to utilities from Palm Beach County to Dade County.

I have loudly and publicly pointed out that it doesn’t save the Everglades or the Lagoon.

At this point Lake Point appears to be claiming that everyone knew that Lake Point always planned to transfer water from Lake Okeechobee through its Martin County rockpit and sell it to cities further south. It seems likely that when sales on rock fell, Lake Point focused on privatizing water from the Lake.

They are suing Martin County because the County is enforcing its land development regulations. Lake Point claims they are exempt.

They are suing me for “tortious interference” because they claim that I made the Water Management District and the County ask questions about their project.

My legal bills to date are $99,026.19. I expect Mr. Lindemann's lawyers have charged him over $1,000,000 by now.

I’m starting a legal defense fund now so I can continue to defend myself and continue to speak out about things that hurt the environment and hurt taxpayers.

In case I die and they can't sue me anymore, or I actually raise more money than is necessary, the Trust document for the Fund states:" Upon payment of all of my accrued legal expenses,any excess funds remaining in the Trust Fund shall be disbursed only to the Trustee or manager of a similar fund established fora similar purpose, that is, to pay for the legal defense of any person named as a defendant in a SLAPP suit associated with an environmental issue or to an organization that has as its primary function the defense of environmental issues or activities."

In Martin County, county commission candidates with financial ties to Lake Point are trying to unseat incumbent commissioners who have questioned the project. The challengers are making outrageous claims that the project owners are noble philanthropists who wants to save the Everglades and are being unfairly treated. No one is contesting those claims because no one wants to get SLAPPED.It's clear that if the two challengers are elected they will cease defending the County's comprehensive plan and let Lake Point do whatever it wants.

I will pursue counter claims. I’ve set up a website called where you can read all the gory details. I hope to have lots of information on it in a few weeks.

Someone has to stand up to bullies with too much money and not enough sense.

Donations can be mailed to: Maggy’s SLAPP-Back Fund, PO Box 891, Stuart, Fl. 34995

No donation is too small.

Thank you,
Maggy Reno Hurchalla


Anonymous said...

I just sent a check. Good cause.

Anonymous said...

George Lindeman, Jr was convicted of killing horses for insurance money. He went to prison for four years. Not a nice guy.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for Maggy Hurchalla. She has championed saving the Everglades, and doesn't get caught up by trying not to upset people. I am giving her a donation.

Anonymous said...

Maggy is one of the greats that Florida is lucky to have!