Columns

Mel Sembler Is the Last One Who Should Influence Florida Drug Policy

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: April 7, 2014 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ

There are so many reasons Florida Republicans should distance themselves from Mel Sembler and find money for their 2014 candidates elsewhere.

The most important one is that Sembler is a sad object lesson in how cruelty can be redeemed by the power of campaign donations.

This man has bought his way into the homes of presidents and governors and some of the nation's most powerful individuals -- especially Florida politicians -- so he could influence drug policy, and he has been successful for nearly four decades.

As a compassionate conservative, I am offended by Mel Sembler.

He had everybody tricked, Democrats and Republicans alike. 

As I've already written, for 16 years he and his wife Betty directed the leading juvenile drug rehab business in America, STRAIGHT Inc., which prosecutors closed in 1993 after reports of sexual abuse, beatings, prisoner-of-war-style torture and unrelenting cover-ups. Despite the six-figure settlements that sucked the business dry, the 40-plus client suicides, the clinic licenses state health officials yanked, Sembler not only found a way to escape punishment, but he defends his program to this day.

Mel Sembler

Mel Sembler

In fact, the program legally changed its identity to the Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF). Director Calvina Fay denies it's the same organization, but the name change is listed in corporate filings. DFAF no longer treats clients, but it's still a major player in shaping domestic and international drug policy.

Please don't think the case against STRAIGHT is just rumor, or political nonsense. Florida’s Bureau of Criminal Justice Planning and Assistance found that most cases of child abuse at Straight had been substantiated; that even though STRAIGHT received federal grants, it had "disguised" client fees as "donations"; that in its first 18 months of operation STRAIGHT had enrolled 450 teens but only one had been black; that  Sembler had violated federal conflict-of-interest regulations because federal grant money was to be used for "salaries only," but STRAIGHT had put the money in a single bank account along with other STRAIGHT funds at First Bank of Treasure Island. Worse still, Mel Sembler was on the bank's board of directors.

A 1993 Florida state IG report on STRAIGHT concluded that Sembler had probably interfered in a state attempt to close the program for abusing children.

In spite of all this, STRAIGHT became the world's largest program of its kind. This was due in large part to an excellent advertising and marketing department which was buttressed by prominent politicians who endorsed it.

Incidentally, STRAIGHT survivors have their own website, survivingstraightinc.com.

Here's what Sembler, now 84, got for his fundraising and high profile over the years: an ambassadorship to Austria in 1989, a Republican National Committee finance chairmanship in 1997, a plummier ambassadorship in 2001 (this one to Rome, even though he couldn't speak Italian) and in 2005 an ornate, $83.5 million, taxpayer-funded building named after him (talk about a Taj Mahal) in Rome  -- a first for an American diplomat. Oh, yes, and the biggest prize of all? A free pass when prosecutors only closed his clinics, instead of indicting him as they would have anybody else.

Right now I'm concerned because the capital is abuzz with rumors that Sembler is behind the scenes working to influence the Florida Legislature, trying to kill legislation in the House that would legalize non-euphoric cannabis (CBD) oil for children so wracked with seizures they probably won't celebrate their 20th birthdays. I was unable to reach House Speaker Will Weatherford over the weekend to confirm the rumors.

I'm not sure why Sembler, a St. Petersburg commercial real estate developer at the start of his career, would want to do such a thing to families who have exhausted every other drug and treatment for epilepsy. But at this moment, I'm more concerned that anyone in the Legislature would listen to him.

Do you think lawmakers looking to decide policy on juvenile justice would ask advice from anybody with an Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys background? I very much doubt it. Why, then, would they listen to Mel Sembler when forming Florida drug policy?

Child protection has been a theme of the 2014 Legislature. Lawmakers have spent hours on discussions of sexual predators and children, and on the dozens of dead children in South Florida, victims of domestic abuse. How can we skip over the atrocities at STRAIGHT again?

At last week's medical marijuana forum in Tallahassee, one of the points raised was that the federal government has held a patent on medical marijuana for three decades, but it squandered the time and money it might have used conducting research, on addiction and substance abuse instead. Now, perhaps, we can see why. 

Our Republican Party is better than this, don't you agree? We made mistakes in the past. We let Sembler hoodwink us. Fell for him lock, stock and barrel -- believing that, besides money, he had answers to a tough problem and a competent program to do something about it. For decades, we enabled him.

All I'm asking is that we break the cycle. Let's do better than that in 2014. Instead of letting Mel Sembler dictate policy for Florida, can't we look at medical marijuana objectively and responsibly, as Reps. Matt Gaetz and Katie Edwards are doing in HB 843, as a plant with potential for ending patients' suffering?  Parents who don't want to wait for their children to die are pinning their hopes on the Legislature, and shouldn't we be in their corner?


Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.


Comments (8)

Yes thank you for bringing the truth to light
5:30AM APR 9TH 2014
And please support the people who care about the horrors of the Green Isle Boys ranch rapes in Lake County. This was a spin off of Mel Sembler's Straight, Inc. Not one ounce of justice has ever been achieved for these untold numbers of victims over the 20 years this (now) Lake Sheriff Gary Borders and his friends in the system run. No real arrests and when the 9 year old victims parents sued the ranch in 2001 what did they get? The got the husband of the Green Isle Attorney Julia Law (Judge William law) for their judge. He summarily dismissed their case with prejudice! Let us all remember all the boys who were victims of the sex abuse at Green Isle Boys Ranch!
samantha survivor of STRAIGHT inc
5:53PM APR 8TH 2014
Thank you for keeping the story of STRAIGHT alive.
Suggested reading
2:39PM APR 7TH 2014
The Franklin Scandal by author Nick Bryant is an eye opening experience

A chilling expose’ of corporate corruption and government cover-ups, this account of a nationwide child-trafficking and pedophilia ring in the United States tells a sordid tale of corruption in high places. The scandal originally surfaced during an investigation into Omaha, Nebraska's failed Franklin Federal Credit Union and took the author beyond the Midwest and ultimately to Washington, DC. Implicating businessmen, senators, major media corporations, the CIA, and even the venerable Boys Town organization, this extensively researched report includes firsthand interviews with key witnesses and explores a controversy that has received scant media attention.

The Franklin Scandal is the story of a nationwide pedophile ring that pandered children to a cabal of the rich and powerful. The ring’s pimps were a pair of Republican powerbrokers who used Boys Town as a pedophiliac reservoir, had access to the highest levels of our government, and connections to the CIA.

Nebraska legislators nearly exposed the ring in 1990, but its unveiling had the potential to produce seismic political aftershocks, so a rash of deaths and a full court press by federal and local law enforcement affected an immaculate cover-up.

State and federal grand juries in Nebraska and a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia played an integral role in the cover-up, and the author has had access to thousands of documents that would ultimately be sealed by the two grand juries. My documentation includes Omaha Police Department reports and internal memos, Nebraska State Patrol reports, Nebraska Department of Social Services reports, internal Boys Town reports, victim debriefings, hundreds of the ring’s airline receipts, etc.

The power elite sating their appetite for forbidden fruit via pedophilia and pedophiliac sadism is an evil that dates back millennia: Roman emperor Tiberius reportedly indulged in pedophilia and then murdered his victims. Moreover, pedophile rings linked to the powerful have recently been exposed in Belgium, Portugal, Chile, and Mexico.

The Franklin Scandal is the first commercially-published book to tell the tale of a power elite pedophile ring in the U.S. and also of the cover-up of its heinous crimes. Various news organizations have attempted to break aspects of this story, but the reports have either been ignored or mysteriously shelved. Major news agencies, including ABC, have backed away from pursuing this story; conversely, CBS abetted its cover-up. It’s obvious that very powerful people have a vested interest in safeguarding this secret.
Gary
2:31PM APR 7TH 2014
You have a lot of guts, Ms. Smith. Mel Sembler isn't as bad as you say, he's worse. Run and hide.
Thanks again for some truth
9:12AM APR 7TH 2014
Nancy Smith – the real people of Florida and the nation for that matter owe you a salute for your courage to bring the Saga of the Influence of Mel Sembler to the light of day. However your remark of “As a compassionate conservative, I am offended by Mel Sembler” that is if you are the same kind of “compassionate conservative” as former President and Mel Sembler fan George W. Bush and the rest of the Bush family Sembler friends and supporters.

You see the truth of the matter is Mel Sembler could not have accomplished all this without the full support of the Bush family. Reality is Mel Sembler is nothing more than another person who rode to success of his madness on the coattails of a Bush.

Most people have never heard of Mel Sembler. His old friend George HW Bush who anointed him to those ambassadorships as a reward for all the wealth he shared with his friends and co-horts in the child abuse industry.
Along with their ability to cover up the facts concerning Straight, Inc. was the Bush dynasty’s ability to cover up the coast to coast child pedophile rings which spun off of something called THE FRANKLIN SCANDAL.

Mel Sembler’s political power enabled him to overcome the Florida government employee’s who attempted to halt his atrocities. For instance in Florida when DCF officials intervened, he simply bought enough votes in the legislature to create exemptions for religious schools or organizations which also exempted those organizations from state inspections and oversight. This continues to this day.

When Sembler’s houses of horror’s began to crumble other friends and Sembler associates began to pick up the pieces and start other spin off’s of these organizations under different names just like when “the program legally changed its identity to the Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF). “BUT” Director Calvina Fay denies it's the same organization, but the name change is listed in corporate filings.”

Great question here; “Do you think lawmakers looking to decide policy on juvenile justice would ask advice from anybody with an Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys background? I very much doubt it. Why, then, would they listen to Mel Sembler when forming Florida drug policy?”

But, Nancy the fact remains that many of these organizations were operated so as to entice many lawmakers who were invited to these houses of horror for intimate relationships with the children of both sexes – reportedly many times being video taped which is later used as insurance for compliance in their demands.

And today these organizations are just as protected of not more than ever before.
Everyone in the South Eastern United States has heard of the horrors of the child sex abuses at the Green isle Boys Ranch in Clermont Lake County Florida.

Green Isle Boys Ranch was a spin off of Sembler’s houses of horrors beginning in 1987 by a group from Osceola County who called themselves professionals in the criminal justice system. The two main players were Donald S. Brown and Gary Borders. Brown was a local dentist and
Thanks again for some truth
9:09AM APR 7TH 2014
Borders was an employee of the Osceola County Jail at the time. Green Isle was opened in 1989 and that same year Gary Borders left the Osceola County Jail and moved to Lake County to run that jail.

From its inception rumors of the child on child sex, house parents exposing themselves to the boys and such were on the streets of County Lake County. Over the years several child rapes were reported to the Lake Sheriff’s Office. Never was an arrest made! In 2000 the multi-rapes of a nine year old boy whose report was covered up by the sheriff’s Office filed a suit. The suit was heard before Lake Circuit Judge William Law whose wife was the Green Isle Attorney of Record. Judge Law dismissed the suit with prejudice on behalf of his wife’s client.

In 2006 governor Jeb Bush rewarded Gary Borders by appointing him the Sheriff of Lake County. On Nov. 21, 2009 FIVE boys ages 12-15 reported they had been brutally raped and had their lives threatened by an older boy from July to early Nov. that year and only felt safe to report the crimes after the boy had left the ranch. Sheriff Gary Borders Office took no actions on these reports until house parents got the breaking news of the boys rapes aired on Orlando TV stations on Feb. 3, 2010. Around this time Green Isle Ranch insiders also published pictures of Sheriff Borders with the rapist in July 2009. After the news of the rapes surfaced Sheriff Border and his friends in the criminal justice system faked up an arrest, prosecution and sentencing of the rapist. Even though FDLE reports confirmed the arrest, prosecution and sentencing court records prove the rapist was not on “community control” but was instead out receiving traffic citations and committing dating violence for which he had a request for injunction for protection place on him.

So, based on these proven and documented facts “do you think the people of Lake County Florida should have a Sheriff who operated a facility just like “The Arthur Dozier School for Boys” for twenty plus years and God only knows what else, but for sure covered up the rapes of untold number of boys, while like Mel Sembler enjoying the protection of the establishment he serves?

Has everyone forgotten the JEB BUSH BOOT CAMPS DEBACLE?
Has everyone forgotten how many children went missing from DCF care during the eight years Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida?
As this article states the Mel Sembler houses of horror were not just rumors; there was and is plenty of evidence of his atrocities. Likewise there is plenty of evidence of the Green isle Ranch atrocities as well, but Green Isle Co-Founder Donald Brown operates the various BRIDGES of AMERICA Florida DOC half-way houses (Former RPOF Chairman Jim Greer is in their Orlando facility right now!) and the prison ministries for the FDOC.

In other words everyone is too well connected to fail! It would be nice if the Republican Party would clean up its act – cleanse itself of the perverts who have infiltrated its ranks over the last four decades, but this will never happen because too many of them have way too much dirt on each other – dirt that if Lady Justice was still really blind and honest would send way too many politicians, law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors to the slammer for decades.
Meanwhile it’s up to the parents and good, honest. moral people to protect their children from the scum of the earth that has acquired the power.

Knowing that Sheriff Borders received the reports of five boys being raped at this Green Isle Ranch facility on Nov. 21, 2009 and kept it secret until the facts leaked 75 days later on Feb. 3, 2010; would you want Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders coaching your grandson?

Not only this but in 2009-10 Lake Jail employee’s told two FBI Agents that they had witnessed then Jail Major Borders having intimate relations with a jail inmate. Why didn’t the FBI pursue this? Because somebody had the right connections just like Mel Sembler does that’s why!

Would you ask for his input on Juvenile Justice Matters? Then why in the HEQQ is he the sheriff of Lake County, Florida? Because he belongs to the establishment and cows down to their wants and needs that’s why! He can’t afford to stand up top them because they own him lock, stock and barrel.

Both former Governor Charlie Crist and current Governor Rick Scott are well aware of the horrors of the Green isle Boys Ranch in Clermont Florida – in fact it has recently closed again for the same reasons for the second time under a different name since 2010 – and yet and still not one thing has ever been done about any of this!

Let us not forget as well that Charlie Crist's father Dr. Crist credits Mel Sembler not only for his sons rise in politics, but for his secret alternative lifestyle as well.
Dean
7:33AM APR 7TH 2014
We in Florida are lucky to have a work-around. That is Amendment 2 for Medical Marijuana. While not perfect, it has the advantage of forcing the reluctant politicians to accept and take positive action onMedical Marijuana. For far too long the nay sayers have dictated to the rest of US. In November, the voice of We The People can be heard. I ask everybody, Please Vote YES on Amendment 2 and pass Medical Marijuana. Thank You
wthisgoingon
3:49AM APR 7TH 2014
Thanks Nancy for giving us a small peek of what goes on behind the scenes of our government.
Many years ago I had a dear friend that worked for Straight Inc. as an accountant. I couldn't believe the stories of torture and cruelty I heard at the time. Now I believe it.
Thanks for opening up our eyes a little more.

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