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Christian Recovery House for Addicts Wins Legal Battle, Costing Bunnell $500,000

| September 30, 2015

open door ministries addicts bunnell

The building on East Booe Street in Bunnell was once a mosque, and a church. It will be a recovery house for drug and alcohol addicts.

A year-and-a-half-long legal battle between Bunnell government and a Christian non-profit that wants to run a recovery house for drug and alcohol addicts in South Bunnell ended in victory for the recovery house and steep costs for Bunnell: the settlement agreement between the two sides will allow the house to open on East Booe Street.

The city, through its insurer, will have to pay $312,000 to cover the legal fees of the recovery house organization’s attorneys. That’s not all Bunnell has had to pay in its defense of the case, filed in federal court in April 2014.

“The city of Bunnell spent, with the insurance company, over half a million dollars defending this in regards to what we had to pay our counsel, what we had to pay their counsel,” City Commissioner John Rogers said. “So we didn’t just lay down and take it. This was the best possible deal that we could negotiate with them. As stated, we have some teeth, where we didn’t have no teeth before.”

But the settlement agreement requires Bunnell to pay the legal fees, not the other way around.

“Unfortunately it’s a lot of money that the insurance has to put out on our behalf,” Commissioner Elbert Tucker said, “but if we went to court it would be much more than this that we would have to pay out, or somebody would have to pay out.”

And numerous questions remain unanswered about Open Door Ministries’ funding mechanism–its source of donations, its budget and its ability to run the house, though it’s modeled after a similar operation in Kentucky.

Open Door Re-Entry and Recovery Ministry is a Christian non-profit run by Jim McBrayer, who runs a recovery home for addicts called Friends of Sinners in Kentucky, and Pastor Charles Silano, the local minister. The recovery house is intended to house a dozen recovering addicts who’d be referred to the organization through the court system. The organization bought a building on East Booe that had been a mosque and a church previously, and has been empty for years.

When Open Door applied for a variance from city rules—the residential zone allowed up to six residents in the house, not 12—the city moved to restrict the activities at the house by passing an ordinance that made it difficult for the organization to proceed. The city was responding to intense opposition from residents and local pastors, who objected to the house opening its doors in their midst.

Open Door Ministries charged in the federal suit that Bunnell discriminated against it in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by illegally preventing Open Door Ministry from opening its doors. The case led to a year’s worth of legal maneuvers, leading up to court-ordered mediation on Aug. 4. That led to the settlement agreement.

“There is a very stringent list of conditions that’s attached to the agreement which sets forth the type of use that can be made of this facility,” Sherry Sutphen, the lawyer who represented Bunnell, told commissioners Monday evening, putting a bright interpretation on the settlement.

Open Door will be required to maintain records on residents, available for inspection, that show none have been involved in sex offenses. All residents are to be drug-tested once a week, with a year’s worth of those records available for city inspection—but at the city’s expense and in compliance with state and federal laws that prohibit such disclosures, which may make actual inspections difficult. The home itself will have to maintain the characteristics of a residential home and “maintain properly functioning surveillance cameras on the inside of the structure which record and save footage of, for a period of no less than thirty (30) days, the activities occurring on the inside of the structure,” the agreement states. The footage must be made available to city police, but only in case of criminal investigations. Aside from children of staffers, no one under 18 will be allowed in the house. Bunnell police will have the right to inspect the house with a K-9 (and no more than two officers) once a month.

The terms and conditions, Sutphen claimed to commissioners, “far more stringent than probably anything you could have negotiated, or if you were successful in a lawsuit, that a court could have given you. The terms are very favorable, and I think that they capture everything that you could possibly imagine that would help not only the city regulate what’s going on at this property, but also help the property itself be more manageable and operate properly.”

Sutphen added that the recovery house also “does bring something to the city of Bunnell that you did not have before.” Individuals can also voluntarily admit themselves to the facility.

To help settle the issue, the city met with local pastors who had opposed the proposal previously. “Their input as you can tell from the result of this was seriously taken,” City Manager Larry Williams said.

One of the pastors, Daisy Henry, who is a former city commissioner, was the only person to address the commission Monday evening She was thankful for having been included in the meeting of pastors, but still skeptical about the outcome. She said she’ll keep a close eye on the facility “because I see a lot of things going on now that aren’t supposed to be.”

“We have a clear understanding about what’s going on,” Henry said, “and I appreciate you all inviting us in but you still have a lot of citizens concerned about that, even though it’s needful, but not in that area.”

The city commission approved the settlement agreement, 4-0.

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15 Responses for “Christian Recovery House for Addicts Wins Legal Battle, Costing Bunnell $500,000”

  1. unbelievable says:

    God for bid somebody might get some help and rehabilitation in that town. I can’t for the life if me understand why anyone would want to shut down a rehab center for people who need help. Great job Bunnel, way to spend a bunch of money trying to keep your people down.

  2. confidential says:

    Congratulations to Pastor Silano and all the volunteers involved in this compassionate goal.
    I have known in all the many years in Flagler County several residents that recovered from substance abuse and are now positive part of their families and our community, but also they could afford their treatment and had the sustain and support of their families to achieve success.
    Our citizens in financial despair and or without family sustain and support don’t have the same chance to succeed. I read that often they walk out of their jail sentences with just few dollars in their pocket and often nowhere to go. Then I think that Pastor Silano’s and his ministries will be there for many of them and indirectly helping us as well by recovering back, one of our fellow American men among us. Just my personal believe. Wish you success into your journey!!

  3. JimBob says:

    Bunnell must be eat up with Christian charity.

  4. Ray Thorne says:

    “So we didn’t just lay down and take it. This was the best possible deal that we could negotiate with them. As stated, we have some teeth, where we didn’t have no teeth before.”

    “…… we have some teeth, where we didn’t have no teeth before.”

    So then……they had teeth before lol.

  5. YankeeExPat says:

    I lost all faith in Pastor Silano when he went on to support convicted Rapist James McDevitt as opposed to the rape victim. Misplaced sympathy for the rapist instead of for the victim of a horrendous crime.

  6. The Geode says:

    Please tell me this is some kind of JOKE. This place is smack in the middle of a street where the vast majority of drugs are sold in Bunnell and the slum apartments that adjoins it houses some of the biggest dealers. Obviously, those who are saying “people needs to get help” knows NOTHING about this location. I would bet none of those people would walk down that street unless they wanted to buy dope or get robbed. (most likely both)
    This is a TOTAL waste of money and you people are FOOLS to think an addict will get better by placing them in that environment. If anything – they’ll get worse.

  7. Nice Real Nice says:

    WHen you leave the jail you do not get the money that you walked in their with. Those freaks that work their steal it or find someway for you to leave that place with NO money whatsoever. The best thing I can tell anybody is stay far far away from that place. Very degrading and absolutely inhuman. THANK GOD for this rehab. God bless them.

  8. Paster Jones says:

    I was unable to make the meeting, but i love it when people say it is a great program. ask them do they want it in there neighborhood. the answer is no. but it is ok to put in bunnell because who cares about the people there. Try to put it in Palm Coast or Flagler Beach and it would never happen. If the people told you there didn’t want it there why did you put it there. Why go to court to force the issue. What you told the people it that you don’t matter.This is good being evil spoken of. Think about that.Again those who think this is OK, Think about this being next to your house.

  9. BeTheChange says:

    Good luck Pastor Silano.

  10. Outsider says:

    In “that” town, but not your town. Why would anyone in any town want drug addicts housed in their neighborhood? Yes, people need to get help, but I would certainly not want drug addicts imported from other places and living next door to my family. I have known a number of people with drug and alcohol addiction and they will do whatever they have to do to sustain their habit, including stealing from their own families. This is a bad idea.

  11. KB63 says:

    I agree with all the others who think this is a bad idea. Though I wish Pastor Silano luck and rehab housing is desperately needed, placing at risk people in a blighted, drug rampant area is bound for failure. I’m sure that’s why they could afford to buy the building in the first place. Maybe you could have saved longer & bought something in the country where they could have hobbies, gardening, wood working & such instead of being able to walk 10 feet out the front door into temptation. Sorry, you just aren’t going to do these people any good unless you can clean up the whole area. Maybe you can work on that.

  12. Flagler Resident says:

    What has been done to stop the dealers in your neighborhood from creating these addicts. I say if you create the problem and profit from it help clean it up. Maybe the culture of south Bunnell should change to make it a better environment. Atleast some good can come of it.

  13. Swizz says:

    My guess is this was just lawyers making a case in hopes of getting some hefty fees because they knew Bunnell was in a weak position legally. Now the challenge for the winning side will be converting what was once a church into a 12 bed recovery house, which is an R-4 occupancy type. If the Building Official in Bunnell holds their feet to the fire, per this conversion, it will be very expensive to renovate and get the revised CO (certificate of occupancy). My guess is it will be more cost effective to demolish and rebuild.

  14. confidential says:

    Looks like Habitat and other volunteers are showing up tomorrow Saturday 10/3 at the location In East Booe St. Bunnell to tighten up the building and its grounds. Maybe if so we also could get there and help.

  15. I/M/O says:

    Every demand by the government listed above is a violation of federal law. Alcohol and drug treatment records are medical records and therefore totally confidential. The only way for the police to look at drug and alcohol records is for them to obtain a Duces Tecum Supobena from a sitting Judge who then first reviews the records to see if the police really need them.

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