Church of Scientology asks for block to tourism funding of Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Posted at 7:37 PM, Apr 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-25 19:37:51-04

"We saw it as we were driving in and thought that it would be a fun thing to do," said Justin Howell.

Justin Howell and his family are from Tennessee on their way to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

"A lot of times there's just a wait time. They've seen everything. They have to wait now for the next show
so they'll come in here and have a nice meal," said Jennifer Olsen.

The CMA is under scrutiny from a neighbor.

The Church of Scientology is lodging a formal complaint claiming the CMA doesn't deserve tourist tax funding. The complaint says the Aquarium's economic impact studies are 'unreliable and exaggerated.'

It also claims the CMA rejected $15 million dollars in private funding and alleged its CEO is overpaid.

"We refute everything in there. They're out of context. They're completely inaccurate," said CEO CMA David Yates.

Pinellas County Commissioners voted to give the CMA a one time allocation of $26 million from the tourist development trust fund.

CEO David Yates says the church complaint is an attempt to discredit the CMA after it sold a piece of property to the city-- a piece of property the Church of Scientology coveted and bid on.

RELATED: City votes to buy Clearwater Marine Aquarium land blocking Church of Scientology's expansion

"I will simply say we sold our property to the city last Thursday, closed on Friday and this happens on Monday," said Yates.

We asked to speak to the Church's media contact who declined to answer any questions about the complaint saying it speaks for itself.

But Yates says he's ready to challenge every allegation with facts.

"You don't go from 76 thousand people 10 years ago to 800 thousand people and not have a measurable impact. I mean that obviously brings, fills up hotel rooms, brings in people," he said.