Gabe Cazares was an active, community-minded man his entire life. It was his actions as mayor of Clearwater, however, that forever entwined Gabe with the Church of Scientology.
Gabe served in World War II, receiving the bronze star; was in the Air Force for 23 years; received a Master’s degree in Business Management; was a stock broker; and from 1975 to 1978 was mayor of Clearwater Florida.
He later was Pinellas County commissioner, and served on countless state, county and city commissions, boards, and civic groups. He helped found the Pinellas County Habitat for Humanity chapter. Gabe has received many community service awards, including the Cult Awareness Network’s Leo J. Ryan Award in 1986.
The same year Gabe became mayor of Clearwater, Scientology purchased the Ft. Harrison hotel and the old bank building in downtown. They disguised themselves as United Churches of Florida. Their secretiveness and bizarre behavior, such as their abundance of guards surrounding their properties, aroused Gabe’s suspicions. No one had ever heard of United Churches of Florida before.
On January 26, 1976 Gabe, host Bob Snyder, and Sorrell Allen and Milton Wolfe representing United Churches appeared on WDCL radio. Allen had promised that on this program he would finally answer who United Churches was. Instead he read a prepared statement stating who they were not:
“We are not connected to gambling interests, we are not the Mafia, nor are we Rockefeller-financed. We do not represent New York bankers nor do we represent the Queen of England, nor Lord Thompson of Canada.”
Gabe stated simply that “the people of Clearwater want to know what’s up” and complained again about the abundance of security guards with Mace and billy clubs protecting the Ft. Harrison Hotel.
On January 28 the Church of Scientology, after much public scrutiny and pressure, announced that it was behind United Churches of Florida. Cazares was incensed:
“The Fort Harrison has been there for half a century and now, for the first time, it is actually a fort… it’s frightening.”Pointing incredulously to guards on the roof, he added:”There’s no doubt about it. Those are armed guards on regular patrol.”
Scientology was not amused. On January 30, new Scientology spokesman Arthur Maren struck hard at Cazares’ reputation in a press conference.
On February 6 Scientology filed a $1 million lawsuit against Cazares, claiming libel, slander, and violation of civil rights.
In March Scientology ran a petition campaign to call for Cazares to resign. They managed to get 318 signatures.
Gabe struck back with a libel and slander suit on February 27 based on Maren’s press conference.
A June 6, 1976 “Guardian Programme Order” by Scientology’s Guardian’s Office (their own CIA) was created and dubbed “Mayor Cazares Handling Project.”
This secret project was designed to “remove him from public office and discredit him as an opinion leader.” This included forming letter-writing campaigns against Cazares, working for any political opponent of his, asking him embarrassing questions at his political rallies, registering all Scientologists to vote against him, filing suit against him, placing an operative in the Cazares campaign, and many other such actions.
On August 5 the St. Petersburg Times reported that an anonymous letter from a “Sharon T.” claimed Gabe had spent the night with her in Washington D.C. and was involved in a hit and run accident.The Justice Dept. began investigating because it was sent to democratic officials and party workers in Pinellas county in an apparent attempt to ruin Gabe’s run for a congressional seat. This was a Scientology sting operation.
In 1976, the GO [Guardian's Office] was determined to silence all opposition in the City of Clearwater. Mayor Cazares was its chief target.
A GO agent, posing as a reporter, interviewed the mayor when he was on a visit to Washington, D.C. The “reporter” introduced Cazares to Sharon Thomas, another GO agent. She offered to show Cazares the sights of Washington. While they were driving, they ran into a pedestrian. Sharon Thomas drove on. The mayor did not know that the “victim” of the accident was yet another GO agent, Michael Meisner.
Scientology ran other operations on Gabe, such as Project Taco-less, which was designed to “ruin his political career and remove/restrain him as an opponent of Scn.”
In June of 1977, the FBI raided the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. based on the testimony of a Scientologist. The raid netted thousands of documents, and led to the conviction of 11 of the highest ranking Scientologists for the largest infiltration of the U.S. government in history. Some of the seized documents were the operations and programs against Cazares and the city of Clearwater. By November of 1977, Cazares had seen copies of these documents, and he called for tighter security in Clearwater government against the Scientology threat.
On July 21, 1978, US District Judge Ben Krentzman ruled that Gabe did not violate Scientology’s civil rights and threw out their case.
On November 11, Krentzman ordered Scientology to pay Gabe’s legal bills from their suit against him, which amounted to $36,000.
Judge Ben Krentzman stated that the “material introduced into the record could support the conclusion” that Scientology’s policy is to “be the sole source of information about itself and to attempt to quell dissenting views offered by its opponents, who may be labeled ’suppressive persons,’ by the harassing use of the legal process.”
In July of 1979 Gabe wrote a summary of what had happened in Clearwater so far:
In 1975 the Scientology Cult occupied the City of Clearwater through the surreptitious actions of two front organizations. Records now reveal that this paramilitary international political group issued military-style directives as follows:
- Secret document re Project Normandie – establishing control in Clearater, Florida area;
- Secret Guardian order re UCF legal establishment – Project Goldmine (Florida);
- Secret report re Goldmine (United Churches of Florida) – front for Clearwater operation.
On March 26, 1980 Gabe filed a $1.5 million against Scientology for invasion of privacy, malicious prosecution, and abuse of judicial process.Merrell Vannier, an attorney actually working for Scientology, wormed his way into Gabe’s life and got himself hired to work for Gabe on this case. After this charade was finally exposed, Vannier had his license to practice law revoked in Florida because of this.
Scientology continued to harass Gabe. The operations against Gabe outraged the citizens of Clearwater who held a rally on his behalf. On Sept. 29, 1981 Scientologist Milton Wolfe wrote the governor of Florida asking that Gabe be removed from the Florida Human Relations Commission.
Gabe was not quiet, nor did he back down.
On the Phil Donahue television program in 1984, Gabe boldly stated that “For the first time in history an American city, Clearwater, was occupied with classified secret orders by a paramilitary terrorist organization.”
Gabe has never pulled his punches when it comes to Scientology. At a CAN conference on March 19, 1988, Gabe spoke of the cult:
“They employ legal and psychological terrorism to silence their critics and their biggest achievement would have been that I not come to this conference but in view of their interests, their concerns, I am a little leery to say what I had planned to say that in my opinion the Scientologists represent the biggest threat to the American institutions of the family, the home, the political institutions, but I will say it and they do.”
Gabe was served with legal papers from Scientology immediately after this speech.In January of 1990 Gabe spoke at the Clearwater city commission meeting, asking them to investigate Scientology’s activities.
Scientology kept busy too. On June 26, 1992 a hate crimes suit by Scientologists Alice Herben and Marsha Lovering against Gabe was rejected. Their second attempt at the same suit failed, with Judge John S. Andrews calling it a “sham pleading.”
Despite Scientology’s constant attacks on Gabe, he still continued and continues to exemplify what a good citizen is all about. Gabe is a credit to the city of Clearwater and deserves recognition for his strength and tenacity against such a powerful and ruthless opponent.