Thursday, March 05, 2015

Jane Velez-Mitchell Asks What Chapman Is Hiding From

Big Monkey Business In County Secret Zoning?

LABELLE, FL. -- In town today for a court hearing, cable television personality Jane Velez-Mitchell asked Hendry County Administrator Charles Chapman what he's hiding.

Hendry county asked Circuit Judge James D. Sloan to dismiss a suit against them over a county commissioner and building and zoning officials' secret meetings and correspondence that changed agricultural zoning regulations to allow a monkey breeding facility for up to 3,200 Macaque monkeys in an agricultural zoned parcel in western Hendry county. Before the change, agricultural zoning applied to domesticated animals like horses, cattle, and goats.

The suit plaintiff's, a trio of land owners near the proposed facility including William Stephens, Carol Grey, and Keely Cinkota are claiming violations of Florida Sunshine Law whereby meetings leading to rules made by governmental agencies must be open to the public. It is claimed that building and zoning employees met without notice to the pubic resulting in a change in rules for animal breeding in an agricultural zone.

A mystery company, SoFloAg intends to build a controversial monkey breeding facility in western Hendry while the corporation's owners hide behind several straw companies. Record searches show one company after another owned by a separate corporation and ultimately owned by a company that is not licensed to do business in Florida. No individuals can be found as owners of any of those companies of record.

Animal rights organizations and local residents attended a courthouse hearing this morning and then went to the Hendry Zoning and Building Office to ask questions about the circumstances of the secret zoning change and the company behind it.

Local LaBelle company, Rock Enterprises seems to have lots of information about the owners and the companies, but they're not talking. Rock Enterprises did the engineering studies and acted as agent for getting governmental permissions and permits.

Building officials were out to lunch, the visiting group of several dozen were told, but County Manager Chapman made a brief appearance to read a prepared statement.

Chapman said, "The judge denied Hendry County’s motion to dismiss and is allowing the case to move forward to the discovery stage. Hendry County will now proceed to file an answer to the complaint.

"The judge’s ruling does not mean that the plaintiffs have won the case or that the County has violated the Sunshine Law. It simply means that the case continues to move forward through the judicial process. We look forward to our day in court to further substantiate that Hendry County did not overstep the bounds of the Government in the Sunshine Law.

“Hendry County stands by the rights provided to our property owners contained within the language of our comprehensive plan and land development code.”

TV personality Velez-Mitchell asked Chapman, "What is there to hide, sir?" but received no response as Chapman scurried back to his office inside the building.

S.A.E.N. Stop Animal Exploitation Now executive director Michael Budkie told the crowd that Primate Products, a primate facility near Immokalee had several monkeys killed there by electrocution and strangling in 2013 and 2014, and complaints were made by S.A.E.N. to the U.S. Department of Agriculture which monitors captive animal facilities.

Also, a representative from Animal Defenders International was at the event asking for support in ending importation of monkeys for experimentation, and to boycott Air France that still transports monkeys to the U.S.

ADI says monkeys are snatched from the wild for factory farms; newborn babies are torn screaming from their mothers and frightened infants are pinned down and tattoed, packed in boxes and flown to labs in the U.S. where among other atrocities they may have bolts and electrodes implanted into their brains by experimenters.

By starting a breeding colony for monkeys in Hendry county, companies who make a living buying and selling experimental monkeys will save the expense of importing 20,000 monkeys a year from Africa and other countries.

Jane Velez-Mitchell is well known for her animal rights advocacy and is a vegan and an environmentalist. In July 2009, Farm Animal Rights Movement awarded her the Celebrity Animal Activist Award at the Animal Rights 2009 National Conference held in Los Angeles, California. While working at Celebrity Justice, Velez-Mitchell’s reporting on animal cruelty earned that show two Genesis Awards from the Humane Society of the United States. She earned an additional Genesis Award for her show "Issues" in 2010. PETA awarded her their "Movers and Shakers Award" in 2012.

Video: Jane Velez-Mitchell, Charles Chapman and animal rights activists at Hendry Building and Zoning Department Thursday.

Other Southwest Florida Online stories on Monkey breeding and the primate breeding facilities

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