SCIENTOLOGY AND CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
The Church of Scientology is again reviving its plan to build its "Super Power Building" at 215 S. Ft. Harrison in Clearwater Florida. The St. Petersburg Times article "Scientology plans mammoth complex" published June 25, 1997 states that "the mammoth building would be part of a complex featuring an 800-space parking garage and a 2,500-seat auditorium. A church official said Tuesday that construction is expected to begin this year. Although plans for the complex have been in the works since 1991, its scope is larger than previously thought. With an estimated 340,000 square feet of space, the office building alone would dwarf many of the larger office buildings in downtown Clearwater." This as-yet unstarted project was first announced in March of 1991. I wish to point out two aspects of this project that should be taken into consideration by both the city of Clearwater and potential contractors. The first is the church's method and history of paying contractors, and the second is the church's history of missing deadlines in construction projects.
** HISTORY OF NONPAYMENT **
Attachment A is a list of lawsuits against the Church of Scientology (CSI) or one of its myriad affiliated corporations, such as Building Management Services (BMS). Attachment B is a list of liens against Scientology that I found on the internet at http://wpxx02.toxi.uni-wuerzburg.de/~brett/.
I don't know how frequently an "average" corporation the size of the Church of Scientology would be sued for nonpayment of its bills, or how long a list of liens would be, but the lawsuit list is what I found from a quick look at Riverside and Los Angeles county courthouses in California a few weeks ago. Attachment C is copies of 2 lawsuits in the above list.
** PAYMENT POLICY **
L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, wrote policy letters that the church has bound into books (the "green volumes"). These are considered scripture by the church and cannot be cancelled, since only Hubbard himself could cancel policy. The "green volumes" are where financial management is discussed.
Hubbard wrote that the church was to use a "Dateline Paying" method of paying bills, which means a date in the past is selected according to how much money the department has, and then any bills due past that date are paid. "Tell Accounts, 'Give me every bill we owe prior to August (three months ago).' Add these up. Let's say the amount exceeds our cash. Cut it back one month. Order 'Write cheques for every bill up to July 1.' (That's four months back.) That we can cover fully with cash." (HCOPL of 28 January 1965, "How to Maintain Credit Standing & Solvency") If important bills are overdue and threats are coming in, "Still try to use the above system. But if you can't, pay it and retard other bills accordingly. And thereafter, don't pay that outfit's bill on any other terms than threatened trouble... Be very proud and haughty about bills. NEVER propitiate." (ibid.) "In the case of a tradesman demanding for a bill only slightly overdue you will usually find they have done poor work or slow work if you're at all solvent and paying your bills. Don't say 'We're too poor and we can only send you a little but we will try.' ... Say properly 'I don't see that your bill is much overdue. It takes a bit of time to pay a bill you know. I will check over your account and see if it is all right. And by the way, people who dun us either have insufficient finance to handle our business or something is wrong with their bill. I am setting your bill aside for audit and if you call again about it, we will sever the account." (HCOPL of 28 March 1965, "Emergencies and Accounts Personnel") "Disbursement NEVER pays from a received bill alone. All bills received are first filed in the Disbursement files. Then the file is reviewed as a whole when the time comes to pay bills. It is forbidden to short circuit this line and pay bills just as they drop into the In basket. They are filed. Then all files are reviewed once a month, summated and the result entered in a statement sheet in the file folder and on a Bills Summary Sheet.... when thereafter requested to do so, the Disbursement Section makes out the cheques as indicated or readies the cash." (HCOPL of 6 May 1964, "Accounts Policies"). It appears that bills must go through a lengthy bureaucratic paper shuffle before payment is finally made.
Also, the Church of Scientology is highly compartmentalized. Any bills are generally paid from the particular local department or section and not from some general fund for the entire church. Therefore, the church as a whole may be wealthy, but the local department may not have the funds to pay its bills. I am not sure of the system in such a situation, but my general opinion from reading church policy letters is that the local section must not ask for funds from above, they must instead go out and make the money needed.
** CONSTRUCTION DELAYS **
The City of Clearwater may get to look at construction material and equipment at the old Graymoss Inn site for quite a bit longer than they might imagine, if Scientology keeps up its tradition of missing construction completion dates.
Let's take the new movie studio in Hemet California, for example. First in 1991 it was announced that Scientology's Golden Era Studios in Hemet California "plans to build another studio within 18 months that will be at least five times the size of the current studio. The new studio will measure about 60,000 square feet."
-- Hemet News, July 7, 1991
The May 31, 1995 Hemet News had an article claiming that "After completion early next year, the studio will be open to the public on Sunday afternoons, [Muriel] Dufresne said." So that would be April of 1996 for completion. A few months ago Ms. Dufresne said on a local TV program that the studio would open in June. Then a few weeks ago she said it would be open in August. I was by that studio a few weeks ago and I'll be surprised if it opens then either. There has been no landscaping done, and the lake in front of the studio is simply a depression in the ground.
The golf course in Hemet at Golden Era is similar. A Hemet News article from October 16, 1991 says "the opening has been anticipated since a billboard was unveiled on the site in 1988 announcing the public courses would be 'opening soon.'" They opened November 21, 1991.
The Super Power building itself has a similar history. The March 20, 1991 issue of St. Petersburg Times talked about the project to be built at the Gray Moss Inn site at 215 S. Ft. Harrison, across from the Ft. Harrison Hotel. "Construction could start in May" it says. An August 27, 1991 article in the St. Petersburg Times talks about the church's plan to build a $42 million "religious training center" at the Gray Moss Inn site.
The November 10, 1992 Clearwater edition of St. Petersburg Times talks about how the church is trying to raise the $40 million to complete the project. The church claimed to have $7.4 million so far. "Although the site has been cleared, construction has not started." The paper quotes a church flyer seeking donations which stated that the new building "would dramatically increase the speed of expansion for Scientology around the planet."
May 22, 1994, St. Petersburg Times stated in their story "Scientology puts dome on hold for other work" that the church had decided to upgrade other properties it had before working on the Super Power Building. "'It's not delayed and the timetables are not off,' said Mary Story, vice-president of the Clearwater-base Flag Services Organization. 'We've just changed our mind on how we're going to do it.'"
** CONCLUSION **
Any business or city involved with a construction project with the Church of Scientology or one of its many corporate entities would be wise to first review the church's written policies on how it is supposed to pay its bills, research Scientology's payment history, and consider Scientology's past record on large construction projects.
The above is a severely incomplete overview of the topic, designed solely to provide interest in the need to look closely at Scientology's record of construction and payment.
Scottsdale AZ 85271
June 27, 1998