Sarasota cemetery owner faces state regulators over chronic violations

Victims testify to neglect

SARASOTA - Sue Norris filed her first complaint with the state over conditions at Sarasota Memorial in 2011.

Thursday, she showed the board pictures of neglect that surrounds her father's grave site. Sue Pickhardt also counts herself among Cliff Work's victims. Her parents lie in a deteriorating mausoleum at Royal Palm South.

In a 2011, settlement agreement the state ordered Cliff Work to correct a pattern of problems at all three of his cemeteries.

But more than a year later, the I-Team exposed neglect that had not been corrected, including missing and misplaced grave markers.

Then in February, the Department of Financial Services asked the Board of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services to move forward with disciplinary action that could include fines and or the suspension of Work's cemetery license.

In his defense, Cliff Work brought his own pictures taken when he purchased Sarasota Memorial in 2002. 

They show it in disrepair. 

Then he presented photos taken this week that depict manicured grounds.

But an attorney for the state was quick to point out the pictures depict only a fraction of the entire Sarasota property.

Thursday the board only heard evidence as it pertains to Sarasota Memorial.

At it's December 4 meeting, it will review recent inspections and hear from people who are concerned about similar issues at Royal palm North and Royal Palm South in St. Pete.

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