CLEARWATER, Fla. - In the 1970s, the Church of Scientology moved into downtown Clearwater with what the FBI said was called "Project Normandy," the church’s plan to establish "area control."
Now, in fall 2019, the majority of elected members of Clearwater's Downtown Development Board is associated with the organization.
Downtown business owners voted to fill three vacancies on the seven-member board, which controls a budget of just under $300,000 handed over by downtown businesses to fund special events and attract new businesses.
Despite concerns related to the church's original mission of "area control," Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos says service on the DDB, which he says doesn’t have a lot of power, should not be dependent on their religious affiliation.
“My reaction isn’t, 'Who is on the board?' but, 'How effective is the board?'” Cretekos explained.
Wednesday, workers at businesses on Cleveland Street did not want to comment.
Outgoing board member Lina Teixeira, who used to own two Cleveland Street storefronts, said she has a problem with what she said was a "lack of diversity" among board members.
“To have a board where such a majority is represented by one single group is concerning to me,” Teixeira said.
FOX 13's Dan Matics sent a text message and made a phone call to the Church of Scientology’s spokesman, Ben Shaw. He has yet to respond.