PTTS breaks its silence on its lawsuit fail … and you won’t believe what they’re saying now

PTTSTV.com Welcome Message

Above: The PTTS statement as posted to the tournament’s website Friday, Nov. 20. We pre-screened it for Tallahassee ‘dating’ site links.

The following was posted to the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series website shortly before noon, Friday (Nov. 20, 2015), four days after tournament owner Silver King Entertainment LLC abruptly walked away from its lawsuit filed nearly three years ago against Save the Tarpon, its more than 28,000 members, its directors, its former directors and a number of names apparently drawn at random from the phone book. The PTTS decision to take a hike comes on the heels of a number of pre-trial setbacks, combined with an attempt by the tournament’s own lawyer to get out while the getting was still good,  and less than 24 hours before the case was set to go before a jury in Charlotte County Circuit Court. Feel free to pop some popcorn, crawl into a comfy chair and read all about it here.

Trust MeAfter nearly a week of silence spent dodging media calls seeking comment, the PTTS has now spoken. Although the following slice of twisted whimsy isn’t signed, it’s littered with You-Know-Who’s “controlled chaos,” sweet as honey fingerprints. And because it’s understandable that a wannabe would-be, make-believe barracks lawyer can become easily disoriented and confused by the most simple legal stuff, our comments, clarifications and corrections have been helpfully highlighted in big bold type, with replies from the three (former) remaining individual defendants (who had been patiently holding back for nearly three years and have never pretended to be lawyers) in ital.

The PTTS website post is cleverly headlined “Welcome.” That’s pretty much where the reality part ends and the fantasy stuff begins. The text follows:

This last Monday, November 16, 2015, Silver King Entertainment, LLC, locally known as the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) dropped two counts of its complaint against the Save the Tarpon organization and some of its individual directors.

Individual defendant (and Save the Tarpon board member) Mark Futch: That’s because there were only two counts left – out of how many? And those last two were about to get kicked to the curb. Did they forget the judge had gutted most of their case less than a week earlier? And that their own lawyer had attempted to bail on them? 

This decision was due to many considerations, but first and foremost let us be clear the case is not over, as the PTTS is appealing the Courts decision to grant a summary judgment on the PTTS defamation claim against the Save the Tarpon organization and its directors.

Individual defendant (and Save the Tarpon chairman Tom McLaughlin: Yeah, right. Good luck with that. So where’s your appeal? Oh, yeah. You don’t have a lawyer anymore. No problem. Joe (PTTS television host Joe Mercurio) can probably handle it. After all, he’s got three years of college. 

Futch: Don’t forget his Daddy … he’s a judge. When he’s not trolling Sarasota kwikie marts, that is.

The Court without record evidence …

McLaughlin again: Record evidence? Is there any other kind of evidence nobody knows about? Like maybe double secret, off the record evidence?

… ruled that Save the Tarpon and its directors were media defendants because their statements had been published in news outlets

Individual defendant (and Save the Tarpon board member Frank Davis: She did? No she didn’t! We never argued anything like that. She granted the motion because she found we WERE a news outlet by every definition of the term. That we WERE media defendants in the eyes of Florida’s courts. And that Gary Ingman, Mercurio and their little Silver King tee-vee thing didn’t follow the law. Right? (Yes, Frank. That’s exactly what Judge Lisa Porter determined.) 

We believe decision was clearly erroneous …

Futch: So file your (bleeping) appeal already!

… as Save the Tarpon and its directors are competing fishermen, who are not neutral media members …

McLaughlin: Neutral media members? You mean like Fox News? Like MSNBC? Like the Huffington Post? Where in the statute, the one you couldn’t be bothered to obey, do the words “neutral media members” reside?  Competing fishermen? When’s the last time a wrap boat has been spotted 50 miles offshore? Because that’s where I do the bulk of my fishing. 

… and who have a vested interest in damaging the PTTS, along with its sponsors and participants.

Futch: What? Your sponsors and participants have a “vested interest” in damaging the PTTS? You should get a lawyer and sue ’em! Anyhow, why would we have the slightest interest in damaging the PTTS, when Mercurio and Ingman were doing a perfectly good job of damaging the PTTS without any help whatsoever from us?

Further, the Court did not rule that Save the Tarpons statements were not defamatory, but only that Save the Tarpon and its directors should have been given the chance to retract the alleged defamatory statements prior to filing a lawsuit.

Davis: Wait! Didn’t Mercurio just say it was because we were quoted somewhere in some newspaper? Are you guys messin’ with me again? (No, Frank. That’s what he said. Yeah, he did. Really.)

On the morning of November 16, 2015, the Court heard two different Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation (SLAPP) motions filed by Save the Tarpon attempting to show the PTTS lawsuit had no merit, and the Court denied both motions.

McLaughlin: Uh … no. Judge Porter actually set aside SLAPP for procedural reasons. We just wanted to get it on the record. For later on. When the real fun begins. She never addressed the merits. Was Mercurio at the same hearing we were at? Oh, wait. Never mind. He never showed his face in court. Ever. My apologies, Joe.Pretend Lawyer

Silver King Entertainment intends to pursue prevailing party attorneys fees for both successfully defended SLAPP motions.

Futch: (Unintelligible through the laughter.)

McLaughlin: How in the hell are they gonna do that? They voluntarily dismissed their own case?

Davis: You guys are messin’ with me again, right?

After this hearing, the PTTS decided that it did not want to put its sponsors and participants through a trial on two counts that would have required testimony from its sponsors and participants, when the main defamation claims dismissal was being appealed.

Futch: What sponsors? What participants? They still got sponsors? They still got participants? 

The PTTS did not want to subject its sponsors and participants to any more inconvenience due to actions by Save the Tarpon and its leadership.

McLaughlin: Inconvenience? You frivolously sue someone in the wrong courthouse, in the wrong county, for half a million dollars in losses you couldn’t begin to prove, you go through three judges, you attempt every delay imaginable simply to run up the cost, you hire a lawyer who skips out on scheduled hearings without notice – and then quits at the 11th hour – and you’re suddenly worried about inconvenience?

Futch: The judge said it was the 12th hour.

The case is not over, and the PTTS feels strongly in its defamation claim winning on appeal.

Davis: Okay, now I know you guys are messin’ with me.

The PTTS may reconsider going forward, if after discussions with its participants and sponsors, it is decided it is better to take away the Save the Tarpons leaderships vehicle to enrich themselves at the continued detriment to civil discourse.

Davis: In other words, the PTTS and Ingman know they’re going to have to pay through the nose. And that they’ll likely take a few others down with them. Aren’t the rats always the first off a sinking ship? Unless you guys are messin’ with me again.

McLaughlin: “Reconsider going forward?” Good grief. Is quitting all they know? 

Davis: “Take away the Save the Tarpon’s leadership’s vehicle?” Well, I guess if they need it that bad, I reckon they can have the old pickup out back behind the shed. Gonna need tires, though.  

The PTTS has always taken the high road throughout the trial and has exhibited the utmost professionalism towards Save the Tarpon and its members. The PTTS will continue to conduct itself ethically, professionally and will stand up for the rights of all fishermen.

McLaughlin: Really? The high road? The only road the PTTS knows is I-75. 

Futch: Don’t forget the Skyway Bridge … 

McLaughlin: Okay, that too. But that $1.25 toll is kinda pricey. 

Davis: You guys gotta be messin’ with me. 

Are You Serious?

You did it! Tires Plus pulls the plug on the PTTS

Rodney Taucher, PTTS co-owner

Rodney Taucher, PTTS co-owner, stepped in a lot more than he figured when he struck a pose while stepping on a dead PTTS tarpon. Publication of the photo, along with your calls and emails, prompted Tires Plus to become the latest company to drop its PTTS sponsorship. Taucher was wearing a Tires Plus tee shirt in the original photo,

Tires Plus Total Car Care Inc.,  through its parent company Bridgestone/Firestone, has confirmed it is withdrawing its sponsorship of the 2013 Professional Tarpon Tournament Series as a result of efforts by Save The Tarpon’s more than 12,000 members and supporters worldwide.

“Tires Plus is not a 2013 PTTS sponsor,” according to Susan Steino, manager of public relations for Bridgestone Retail Operations LLC., which purchased the Clearwater-based tire and auto service chain in 2000.

Tires Plus had sponsored the controversial PTTS “Tires Plus Release Team,” which had become better known as the “Tires Plus Drag and Dump Crew” for its documented practice of dragging near-dead tarpon to the deepest part of Boca Grande Pass and dumping them. According to statements made on air by PTTS host Joe Mercurio, the team’s alleged purpose was to “revive” the fish.

Steino had earlier said Bridgestone was unaware its subsidiary was sponsoring the controversial tarpon tournament until the company began receiving phone calls and emails from Save The Tarpon supporters. Tires Plus was profiled January 21 as a PTTS sponsor.

Tires Plus is the second PTTS sponsor and the second Florida-based company to be “targeted” by Save The Tarpon’s “Do The Write Thing” awareness effort. The first, Costa Del Mar Sunglasses Inc., withdrew its PTTS sponsorship earlier last month in the wake of publication of a similar sponsor profile. Both former PTTS sponsors were part of a broader Save The Tarpon boycott campaign. Both have been removed from the list as a result of their decision to sever ties with the PTTS.

Boycott Tires Plus - Total Car CareTires Plus said a photo of a PTTS official wearing a company tee shirt while posing with his foot resting on a dead PTTS tarpon, along with other photographs and video at SaveTheTarpon.com and on Facebook showing roped tarpon being towed into the Pass by boats bearing the Tires Plus brand, hastened the company’s decision to become the latest sponsor to bolt the televised fishing tournament.

Daytona Beach-based Costa Del Mar Sunglasses Inc., a subsidiary of the A. T. Cross Company, was spotlighted by SaveTheTarpon.com in an online sponsor profile on December 28, 2012. Costa notified Save The Tarpon Inc. on January 13, 2013 that it, too, was cutting the sponsorship cord to the PTTS. Costa was subsequently removed from the Save The Tarpon boycott list. It has since received dozens of messages via Facebook alone praising the former PTTS sponsor for its prompt decision to end its affiliation with the tournament.

On February 4 the PTTS cited what Mercurio called “the persistent challenging economic operating environment” when it broke the news it was cancelling all but one of its women’s tournaments slated for 2013. The decision to abandon the women’s events came in the aftermath of Costa’s withdrawal and eight days prior to Tires Plus official announcement it was pulling the sponsorship plug. Sarasota-based Andros Boatworks ended its PTTS affiliation in June.

Save The Tarpon’s supporters reacted quickly and positively to news of Tires Plus Total Car Care’s decision to end its PTTS sponsorship. The company’s withdrawal was first announced to Save The Tarpon’s more than 10,600 followers on Facebook.

“This is where I will buy tires from here on!” Gregg Rodier wrote, just one of dozens of comments posted to the page. All echoed a similar theme. From Don Gable: “Thanks Tire Plus! Great move to preserve a great treasure!” Ditto Shane Sovan: “Way to make the right call!” And Vicki Lapple Hensley added: “Good going, now I might shop there again.” Save The Tarpon supporters have also posted comments praising the company’s decision on the Tires Plus Facebook page.

Facebook follower Ryan Hawks proclaimed “Victory!” and was among many who asked “Who’s next?” Stay tuned, Ryan. Stay tuned.

 

Introducing: PTTS Co-Owner, Rodney Taucher

As the adage goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  This one? Well, it makes us speechless.

Enter Rodney Taucher.

Rodney Taucher - Budget Heating & Air

PTTS Managing Member Rodney Taucher chuckles as he steps on a dead tarpon DNA connected to the PTTS.

For those of you who have not been properly introduced, Rodney Taucher is the newest partner of Silver King Entertainment, LLC, the company responsible for bringing us the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS).

Here is a statement from Joe Mercurio, tournament VP and Manager, dated December 29, 2011:

“In order to properly manage the growth of our organization we needed to grow our staff. For the past 3 years Rodney Taucher has assisted us in organizing our registration process and developing our statistic tracking programs. Rodney’s extensive knowledge of online media, computer programming, and his business organization skills has helped us get better. It’s for these reasons that we have invited Rodney to become an equal partner with the Ingman family and Joe Mercurio. This new partnership should strengthen the corporation and allow for future expansion.”

Rodney Taucher, Owner, Budget Heating & Air

Owner of the PTTS and BudgetHeating.com (Budget Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.)

In addition to his co-ownership of the PTTS, Rodney also owns Budget Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. (BudgetAir.com), a PTTS team sponsor. You can find them on our boycott list.

So now that you’ve been introduced, lets get back to this heart-warming photo showing a jovial Rodney Taucher, co-owner of the PTTS, carelessly propping his foot upon a dead Silver King on the shore of Boca Grande. Oh yea, and sporting his official PTTS Tires Plus Release Team jersey no less.

At the time this photo was taken, Week #2 of the PTTS was underway. It was May 27, 2012 and the Women’s Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (WPTTS) had just taken place the previous day.  This tarpon was found floating in Boca Grande Pass by a FIT researcher who towed it to the beach to retrieve the eyes for her tarpon retinal research.  She submitted a scale to FWRI for the DNA sample.  Months later, the DNA results were released and linked this dead tarpon to Capt. Troy Sapp of Team Yamaha.  The tarpon had been caught during Week #2 of the WPTTS by Team Yamaha having been unnecessarily gaffed, dragged, hoisted from the water, dragged again and killed for the sake of TV face time for the high profile team sponsor.

As the researcher was taking her samples, a young boy walked up, drawn by the opportunity to see this magnificent fish close-up. He was distraught and actually wept at the sight of this 50 or 60 year old animal lost forever.  Yet, Rodney Taucher, PTTS co-owner, felt it was appropriate to use it as a foot stool.  This telling reaction further solidifies what those local to the Boca Grande area have known about PTTS owners and management  for a long while.

Capt Troy Sapp's Dead Tarpon

A young boy weeps at the sight of a dead tarpon.