Scientology Files Stay Secret In Deal

Source: Tampa Tribune
Date: April 13, 1996

by David Sommer

Clearwater officials have agreed to keep secret old police files on the Church of Scientology in order to settle the last remaining court battle between the city and the group.

The agreement would require a judge's order to see the files, which are supposed to be open under the state Government in the Sunshine Law. The city's lawyers believe the agreement is legal and not an erosion of the public's right to open government, said Mayor Rita Garvey.

"Our position was we didn't need to close the records, period," said Garvey. "What the Scientologists wanted us to do was to get rid of them. ... We are not destroying them. They are still available, but just through a different process than they used to be."

Scientology lawyer Paul Johnson called the agreement fair to both sides.

The settlement between the city and the church still must be approved by a federal court. A hearing is scheduled Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew.

The city originally sued the church in state court in February 1994 after Scientologists protested the release of the police files to the press.

The church later counter-sued and had the case moved to federal court.

The dozens of file boxes in question contain the results of numerous city police investigations dating to 1979, according to court records.

Among the documents are allegations of child abuse and neglect at the church as well as the identities and personal financial information of church members, Johnson has said.