Vendor Threatens TPI With Defamation Lawsuit

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The jet ski and parasail ordinance issue on Fort Myers Beach has a new twist. Paradise Parasail owner Chase Hussey, who rents property from TPI for his operation, has sent a letter to TPI threatening a lawsuit over the statement TPI issued last week.

This past Friday, TPI Co-CEO Tom Torgerson alerted the Town Council that TPI had decided not to offer jet ski and parasail services when the resort opens in late 2023.

Today the town council will consider finalizing changes to its ordinance that would have let TPI self-perform those two services. The town caps the number of jet ski and parasail licenses on Fort Myers Beach and there are none available now. License holders are allowed to sell or transfer those licenses without any town involvement and the council plans to put an end to that practice by altering the language in their ordinance.

Another change in the ordinance would increase the cap to allow businesses like TPI, that have a valid Commercial Planned Development, to self-perform these businesses if they so choose. It’s also the belief of town councilman Jim Atterholt and former mayor Anita Cereceda that TPI was led to believe obtaining a license would not be an issue for them.

TPI has been unable to negotiate an acceptable lease renewal agreement with any of the current license holders. Last week the TPI board met and decided, for now, they would not provide the services when they open, and recommend vendors if guests asked about going out on a jet ski or for a parasail ride. We posted TPI’s full letter to the town council HERE.

That’s where Hussey’s threat letter comes in.

Paradise Parasail owner Chase Hussey

Hussey says this part of TPI’s letter defamed him and is in “anticipatory” breach of their contract, which expires at the end of 2022….

“If we cannot achieve “best in class” for beach vendor operations that sit right on the focal front of the resort, we will choose not to have these services on premise. As a result of this process, we have already forged relationships with people who provide these services that we will refer our business to in the absence of having it on premise. This has never been about money or greed, as some have purported. From TPI’s standpoint, this has always been about “best in class” operations and experiences for our guests. We are perfectly fine not having the parasail and jet ski vendor operations on the beach out front of the future resort.”

The TPI letter does not mention any jet ski or parasail operators by name.

There are five elements that someone alleging defamation would need to prove in a court of law. They are:
– A statement was made by someone.
– That the statement was communicated verbally or in writing.
– That injury resulted from the statement.
– The statement was untrue.
– It isn’t a protected statement.

Hussey’s Fort Myers attorney Sawyer Smith demanded the TPI statement be taken down by the end of the day Saturday and a new one issued “or legal action will be taken.”

Torgerson’s response to Smith was that TPI is under no obligation to enter into a lease with anyone, nor offer the service on their property. He said TPI and Hussey had already been negotiating and neither side was comfortable with the results. “By us providing a courtesy heads up to this gives our tenants an extended amount of time to plan for relocation,” Torgerson added.

The statement remains up and Smith’s deadline has passed. Now we wait to see if Smith and Hussey follow through on their threat.

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