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The QueQue

The QueQue: Southtown's un-friendlies, Scientology case ends with a whimper, Awkward timing for a bond ruling

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The Church of Scientology quietly settled its breach-of-contract suit last week against a former high-ranking church official last week, closing a case that drew shocking testimony against the notoriously litigious organization in open court earlier this year. The church targeted Debbie Cook, exiled in San Antonio since she left the organization in 2007, with a January lawsuit claiming she broke a sweeping non-disclosure agreement when she sent out an email critical of Scientology's controversial fundraising tactics last New Year's Eve. But when the case hit a Bexar County courtroom for an injunction hearing in early February, the church's case against Cook backfired in spectacular fashion. Cook spilled details on abuse within the organization, including claims that leaders threw high-ranking members, like her, into a makeshift prison ominously dubbed "The Hole" for weeks on end. Cook recounted tales of homophobia, beatings, and routine humiliation — one member, she claimed, was forced to lick a bathroom floor for a half-hour.

Cook said she was imprisoned for weeks at a church-run compound in Clearwater, Fla., and subjected to mental torture before she ultimately signed the non-disclosure agreement at issue in the lawsuit. "I would have signed 'I stabbed babies over and over again and loved it,'" she told the court. "I would have done anything at that point."

The next hearing in the case had been scheduled for May 7, and it appeared an eventual trial could have gotten under way by the end of the year. But Cook's settlement with the church has once again silenced her. Her attorney, Ray Jeffrey, hasn't returned calls from the Current, and under the settlement terms filed in court neither side collects a cent and Cook and her husband are now legally prohibited from speaking ill of the Church of Scientology. To anyone. Ever.

Awkward timing for a bond ruling

The City of San Antonio's victory at the state's 4th Court of Appeals couldn't have come at a more awkward time. With the city on the verge of passing its largest-ever $596 million bond package (early voting started Monday), the ruling, and the city's argument in the controversial Broadway-Hildebrand drainage case, could make locals nervous of future bond pitches. The court ruled last week in favor of the city, dissolving an injunction that kept construction stalled on the $14 million drainage project at the intersection since last May. "What the City promised to do is what the City plans to do; solve the flooding problem that has beleaguered that area for generations," City Attorney Michael Bernard wrote the QueQue.

Approved by voters as part of SA's 2007 bond program, the project initially proposed piping storm water south along Broadway into an existing drainage ditch flowing out near the Witte Museum into the San Antonio River. But after the bond passed, city staffers opted instead to pipe the water west beneath Hildebrand to flow out into a new, massive outfall at the river, just south of the Hildebrand bridge near Miraflores Park.

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