The St. Augustine Record by Editorial Board
September 18, 2018
Here’s a story more people need to hear. It happened down in Martin County, but it could happen in any county, at least in the state of Florida.
It’s a kind of David and Goliath tale, but the ending is different. Goliath stomps on David, and then kicks him when he’s down.
Goliath is represented here by billionaire George Lindemann. The part of David is played by a 77-year-old grandmother and environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla.
Years ago, Lindemann bought a big piece of property near Lake Okeechobee on which to build a polo club. The bottom fell out of the economy making polo grounds, apparently, beaucoup passé. He switched gears, planning instead to build a rock quarry. The business model includes selling the rock and using the quarry to store water when the pits run dry — then selling water back to municipalities (which, most contend, own it anyway).
Up popped Hurchalla, a former county commissioner and sister to former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. She’s fought the rock-mine development plan for years. Along the way, Rock Pointe sued Hurchalla in what many legal minds are calling the worst kind of SLAPP (an acronym for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) suit. Lindemann’s stable of attorneys was careful not to sue Hurchalla for slander or libel. That requires proof she defamed him and that her defamation was careless or lacking facts. She was accused of “tortious interference” in his contracts with two public agencies.
SLAPP suits are prohibited in some states. Florida Politics defines them this way: ”… SLAPP suits are nuisance suits on steroids — intended to harass and burden with thick, unremitting legal filings and perpetually rising legal costs people who criticize or otherwise oppose consumer products, government agencies or, as in this case, business executives or their projects.”