Tom McKenna (WND photo)
STUART, Fla. – The battle over a South Florida business ordered out of its location purportedly because the tenant speaks English and not Spanish is now headed for the legal system.
Tom McKenna, who recently sold his Seacoast Water Care business to a competitor, told WND he now plans to sue his landlord for discrimination.
“Not reverse discrimination, but discrimination,” McKenna said. “I’m being discriminated against whether I’m Hispanic or whether I’m English. The fact that somebody’s singling me out because I don’t speak a specific language or I don’t fit their criteria of what I should be in this particular plaza I don’t think is fair.
“If it were reversed and I was Hispanic and there were two other American businesses in here occupying the other storefronts and the owner of the property said to the Hispanic business owner, ‘Guess what? You’ve got 30 days to move your business outta here because … I want an English-speaking plaza serving the English people in the area,’ there’d be a firestorm from all civil-rights groups across the country including the ACLU.”
WND spoke with McKenna during a small “end of an era” ceremony yesterday outside the vacated office where the Stuart, Fla., resident based his water-conditioning business for the last seven years.
John Allore removes an American flag from the vacated office of Seacoast Water Care in Stuart, Fla., Aug. 31, 2007. The former tenant, Tom McKenna, claims he was forced out of the location because he speaks English and no Spanish. (WND photo)
An American flag flying from the top of Seacoast’s former headquarters was taken down, and a small group of friends and former colleagues were treated to free hot dogs and beer.
McKenna had Old Glory flying as a sign of American pride, while he vented his frustration. He believes many illegal aliens are being given preferential treatment over U.S. citizens.
“There are a lot of people [who over the years] came from other parts of the world who didn’t speak English. They came in the early 1900s and they learned that the only way they were going to further their career and to further their families’ wealth was to learn English – and they did. It seems like now it’s reverse, like, ‘OK, they’re Spanish and we gotta learn Spanish because we gotta get along with them.'”
“It’s great to have two or three languages, but if you don’t have a second language, why should I be forced out of my little plaza because my sign doesn’t say ‘El Seacoast Agua’?”
Video journalist Eric English of NBC affiliate WPTV-TV frames a shot of Wendy Rule and Kim Wright waving U.S. flags outside the vacated office of Seacoast Water Care in Stuart, Fla., Aug. 31, 2007. The former tenant, Tom McKenna, claims he was forced out of the location because he speaks English and no Spanish. (WND photo)
McKenna’s friend and former colleague, John Allore, agrees.
“We gotta quit being so politically correct all the time,” Allore told WND. “I’ve been coming here for years and just recently over the last three years, … every time I pull my truck in – the same truck every day – I’d get swamped by these [Hispanic] guys wanting day work. I mean, they should have figured it out that I wasn’t gonna pick ’em up. The only thing I can think is that there’s new guys standing out there every day. We’ve seen ’em by the hundreds over there trying to get day labor. We’ve had the police over here, but what can they do?”
Allore unfastened the U.S. flag from the outside facade of the plaza to the sound of applause as the farewell was winding down.
The scene outside the vacated office of Seacoast Water Care in Stuart, Fla., Aug. 31, 2007. The former tenant, Tom McKenna, claims he was forced out of the location because he speaks English and no Spanish. (WND photo)
As WND reported this week, McKenna sold his company’s assets to Peter Wernick, president of Ecowater Systems of Stuart, Fla., who is keeping everyone, including McKenna on the payroll.
McKenna says he signed a non-compete agreement for five years, after which he has the option of going on his own again.
He says he rejected an offer of legal assistance from high-profile attorney Willie Gary, and will instead be represented by another local lawyer, Lance Richard.
He said his landlord at the Ellendale Center in Stuart wanted him out of his office space by the end of August to “complete [his] vision of converting the center to quality tenants serving the Spanish need in the area.”
Seacoast Water Care shared the same building as a check-cashing store and a Mexican restaurant, both of which feature signs in Spanish.
Spanish signage for a business in the same plaza as Seacoast Water Care in Stuart, Fla. The former owner of Seacoast, Tom McKenna, says he was forced out because he does not speak Spanish (WND photo)
The day after Independence Day, McKenna received a letter from landlord Ivan Munroe telling him to consider another location, even offering McKenna other space he owns.
Then in another letter dated Aug. 1, Munroe informed McKenna his rental contract was being terminated.
“Please remove all of your possessions by August 31,” the second letter stated.
When asked about his initial letter’s statement about his “vision of converting the center to quality tenants serving the Spanish need in the area,” Munroe told the Stuart News, “I can have a vision, can’t I? And his business just doesn’t fit there.”
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