I was surprised by the tone of Michael Freedman's article, "Cruisin' for a Bruisin'," April 30. Frankly, after my lengthy discussions with him and his interview with SunCruz Executive Vice President Greg Karan, I would have thought it would be more evenhanded than the one-sided direction he obviously wanted to take. Using only one or two brief quotes from Mr. Karan certainly does not indicate the responses he gave to the questions he was asked. In fact, some of the wording can be considered libelous and appropriate action is being reviewed at this time.
It's incredulous that you would single out one cruise operator and not others who operate in waters that are at times choppy, resulting in some passengers feeling uncomfortable at times. Just because there are car accidents, would you propose banning cars from the road? There are accidents that occur in all modes of transportation, air, rail, and sea. Would you ban all modes of transportation because weather conditions may become adverse after a ship has left the pier? We advise our passengers at the dock if weather conditions may be such that they want to consider rescheduling their cruise. Why didn't you mention that other cruise lines might experience inclement weather also?
Mr. Karan provided you with more-than-reasonable explanations for all of the alleged charges made, yet they were ignored and not included in the story, resulting in a highly inflammatory article that is simply not the case. To say in a photo caption that the Mayor of Riviera Beach is collecting a SunCruz check, when the fact is that the check is for the Boys & Girls Club of Riviera Beach as a result of the proceeds from a charity event, is twisting the facts.
Your attempts at defaming a company who has employed hundreds of residents in the localities where they are located, who is providing thousands of dollars to the local economy and has been a good corporate citizen, is totally unwarranted and uncalled for.
SunCruz Casino has been a positive force for the advancement of tourism in the state of Florida and provides hours of recreational fun and enjoyment for our residents and visitors. Perhaps New Times should have printed the myriad positive comments we have received from hundreds of our passengers and groups who have enjoyed their experience on SunCruz Casino. But then, perhaps, your sensationalist article would hold no water.
Barry R. Epstein, Public Relations Consultant
Michael Freedman responds: At no point during my extensive interview with Epstein and Karan did either of them divulge specific factual information that might help explain the allegations made against SunCruz. Instead they offered only general explanations, such as "Accidents do occur," which were included in the article.
I directly quoted Karan four times in the story. I also included the more general information he provided regarding the company's relationship with state and local agencies and their concerns for passenger safety and the environment.
For instance, I noted Karan's claim that the state Department of Environmental Protection selectively enforces the law, as well as his assertion that all boats must be Coast Guard certified. I also indicated, contrary to Epstein's letter, that SunCruz placed a small sign at its Hollywood dock to notify passengers of possible rough seas. And as I stated in the story, the SunCruz staff in Riviera Beach offered me and other passengers seasickness pills for 75 cents a pair before we boarded. At no point, however, did anyone tell us that the sea was rough that day or offer the option of rescheduling.
Regarding the photo caption, it does not imply that Riviera Beach Mayor Clara Williams is collecting the check for herself. At one point in my article, I state that she accepted the check on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club of Riviera Beach, which is well-represented by a sign seen in the background of the photograph.
Claims that I twisted the facts, attempted to defame SunCruz, or wrote a sensationalist article are not well-founded. In preparing the article, I relied upon dozens of interviews, court documents, Coast Guard investigations, and the observations I made during trips aboard two SunCruz boats: one in Hollywood, the other in Riviera Beach.
Get Your Bogus Panther Off My Plater
After reading Sean Rowe's "Bureaucrats Play 'Skim the Cat,'" (April 2) and learning how state bureaucrats are handling the $25 per tag I thought was going toward protecting the Florida panther, I determined that the panther is not the only endangered species in this state. The bureaucrats can now consider my $50 per year for two tags to be endangered.
And politicians wonder why they get such little respect. Simply disgusting.