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Mazik's first defamation suit. It wasn't Antonio.

When news broke last summer that Mount Dora resident Amber Antonio was subject to a defamation suit by Ken Mazik, it rallied a chorus of voices to her support. There is no denying that Mazik appears enjoys the air of infamy and mystery that surround him. Afterall, he really only ever speaks through his attorney and it seems that outside his inner circle of friends, he's rather reclusive.

The Mount Dora Buzz broke the news about the lawsuit in July 2017:
In July, an attorney for Main Street Leasing (MSL) and its owner Ken Mazik, a prominent downtown Mount Dora businessman, sent a missive to a local woman demanding a public apology for critical opinions she expressed. The letter dictated that her apology must include arguably demeaning language about herself in order to avoid a defamation lawsuit.
Of course Antonio didn't make a public apology. Who would? Thus the defamation suit was filed. Mazik fulfilled his threat. As of publishing this piece,  it's yet to be fully litigated.  However, this is not Mazik's first foray into defamation law. A smart fact that was not uncovered by Mazik crusader, Lauren Ritchie, a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel. In his defense Ritchie opined that
It might be best for everyone if the self-described “40-year-old housewife” got off the internet and returned to dusting knick-knacks in her living room... Hopefully, the action will send keyboard cowards scurrying for their lives, leaving real journalists as the last man standing...
While Ritchie cited other instances of such suits in both her news stories and opinion pieces, she missed the one that counts. Everyone missed the one that counts. The FIRST - affectionately headlined by the Delaware Morning News as "Suit is filed by Au Clair School Chief."

The premise behind the legal action was that two former employees of the Au Clair School defamed Mazik and the school when they served as sources for the 1979 News Journal series that laid open the school and its treatment of is residents. Still missing is how this case was resolved. Likely settlement as it doesn't appear to have had a judicial opinion entered into any legal database or print journal. Or perhaps, it was quietly dropped. There is no readily available definitive answer as of now. Happy Reading.

Wilmington, Delaware
Wed, May 6, 1981 – Page 34
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Chasing Ghosts 1983 Racing into Washington

Despite Mazik's propensity to avoid directly commenting to the press, he appeared to a have a penchant for leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for journalists to follow. (Yes, by this part in the series, we are mixing fairy tales.)

By February 20, 1983, Mazik was again making headlines. The News Journal actually dedicated an entire page to Mazik and his "ventures."  And the name dropping... Stoltzs', DiSabatino, Poppiti, Oh My! Magness, Brooks, and Acierno. OH MY! Mazik had certainly been hobnobbing with some powerful friends and true legacy names in the small state of Delaware.

When his focus should have been Au Clair, Mazik had other perhaps more lucrative plans.  He had enlisted Delaware builder Joseph Capano to invest in a new Harness Racing Track in Washington state. Every potential investor had to be vetted by Washington State's Securities Officer.  Capano didn't pass the vet and was forced out of the money making deal. 

Washington also announced that "Mazik's own personal and financial background" were being investigated. He would eventually pass the vetting and even was hired to sugarfoot the build. But, in the end, the names were just names. He was the only Delawarean to fund the Washington race track.

Meanwhile, during this same period of time - two Mazik trainers came forward with claims that he had failed to pay them. His attorney claimed they were owed nothing. However, Mazik, in turn, was suing his ex-wife Clair for a share of the profits in the Silk Stalkings Syndicate. After their divorce, Mazik had purchased Silk Stalkings' 1980 foal for $145,000 and established his own horse syndicate. In Florida, perhaps?

Then there were the rumors that mired the foal, Temujin. Allegations arose that  Joe Capano had been a "silent partner," a violation of the rules set forth by the US Trotting Association. Then it was learned that Temujin had raced twice at Brandywine despite Mazik's failure to register the horse in Delaware - another Trotting Association requirement. 

Clair Mazik, through her attorney, responded to the entire debacle with one particularly precise allegation - Mazik was using funds from the school for personal purchases while failing to declare dividends.  Claire asked the state to put Au Clair into RECEIVERSHIP!

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Chasing Ghosts 1982 - Original Au Clair Gets a Pass

June 22, 1982, it happened. After more than a year of combat between the state and the facility, the Au Clair School received a one year license. 

Oz received it reprieve.

July 16, 1982, the appeals court finds on behalf of former program manager Dean Alexander and his wife. 

What really happened between December 6, 1980 and July 16, 1982 was a series of legal maneuvers in which Mazik tried at every chance to get himself off the hook for the loan it appears was cajoled from the Alexanders after a long night of negotiating, culminating with a Superior Court Appeal that held the judgement of the lower courts. With that loan document, Mazik had literally written himself into a corner. It was a simple error. Mazik had a form book. He'd selected the form to use for the contract.  He completed it and signed as did the Alexanders. Then Mazik defaulted on the loan.  Dean Alexander ups and leaves Au Clair after just six month and sues Mazik for repayment. Mazik begs the court for relief; however, it turns out that he waived that right when he chose and signed the contract. Lesson? Form books are tricky little things. 

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Palette Cleansors...

I love old newspapers! There is nothing more intoxicating than aging newsprint to an old timey journalist. The feel of paper between the fingers, the tattered edges, the cultural currency reflected within those yellowing pages. The truly sad revelation that someday, my own grandchildren, will know nothing of newsprint as the "news" will likely be beamed directly into a chip in the brain. Til then, you'll find me cherishing the society pages of old, of garden parties and library fundraisers, the complete works of the local Knights of Columbus, and those darling scouts selling cookies (while learning the finer skills of a successful Ponzi scheme.)   

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Chasing a Ghost 1981, Temujin's Coming Out Party

1981 - Temujin/Ghengis Khan

Had Lake County thoroughly vetted the Au Clair/Carlton Palms proposal, it likely would not have been greenlighted.  While the benefits of today's social media platforms did not exist in the 1980s, print journalism was thriving.  As we previously opined, little was known about the students transferred to Carlton Palms in its opening weeks. However, it's founder did leave a paper trail, a newspaper trail, that attested to his motivations. . Undeniably, founder Mazik kept a low profile from 1981 to 1986. But, there were stories published in a smattering of news papers. Delaware's New Journal published the 1980 Au Clair licensing expose. The Philadelphia Daily News carried stories about the founder and his horse syndicate while Mazik made appearances in the social pages of the Sentinel.  It could be argued that Lake County was negligent in failing to research the project and its principals and it succumbed to the propaganda. 

In 1981, Jack Kiser of the Philadelphia Daily News, debunked Mazik's Silk Stalking's myth. The amazing little race horse who was featured at least three times on 60 Minutes, who not only lived alongside special needs children but had also saved their home from certain financial insecurity, was little more than contrived folklore.  It was, Kiser opined, a lie. 

Kiser didn't mince words when it came Mazik and his return to the harness racing syndicate:
This time, however, nobody is fighting to interview him, to put him on television, to break out the sob stories about the autistic children and the horses. The publicity releases don't even mention autistic children, or give him the title of doctor.  A win by his pacer tonight could make a lot of people forget about a lot of bad problems. Mazik could be back on top, not to mention $875,000 richer for the win. -

Mazik's new pacer was Temujin, formerly known as Silky's Son. A ridgeling, it was predicted he would slide into harness racing obscurity. Nothing about this pacer showed promise. According to Kiser even Mazik's purchase appeared to be a muddled business dealing. Ken Mazik acquired Temujin at the 1980 Kentucky sale, but that purchase actually occurred under different name. Mazik proclaimed that he already had half ownership of  Silky's Son. The assertion created a brew-ha-ha on the harness racing circuit. When everything had blown over, Mazik was Silky's Son's owner. He renamed the colt to Temujin, which conincidentally was Ghengas Kahn's birth name. Not surprisingly, the Yiddish word "Mazik" has a very special meaning of its own, "mischeivious little devil." Fascinating!

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Carlton Palms Opens Its Doors

Carlton Palms Opens
The Orlando Sentinel,
Jan 13, 1987

January 13, 1987 - The Sentinel marked the opening of Carlton Palms with little fanfare. The former Carlton Palms Retirement Center had been modified to a residential school for children with autism. Within the first week, six students were relocated from "other facilities" owned by the same company. The Palms opened in phases with the first cohort of kids cared for by live-in caregivers. After three months, owner Ken Mazik, planned to morph the care model to one more similar to a nursing home where students would be cared for and educated by a staff working rotating eight hour shifts. Mazik planned to add two children per month to the mix. He intended to rollout an intensive "language development program," aka speech therapy.

Presumably, those first students came from Au Clair, in Delaware. They were accompanied by their existing caregivers. It was an example of best practices in the slowly emerging treatment field of autism, its care and the education of children affected. These caregivers, already known to the children, would help to reduce the trauma of relocation. This stellar moment begs the question, was it lack of will or lack of care that would plague Carlton Palms in the years to come? Regardless, Mazik was on the cusp, in the right place, at the right time. Soon his services would be in great demand.

Within 30 years, the world would be thrust into an autism pandemic. Approximately 1% of the world's population would be diagnosed with Autism by 2014 (CDC/Autism Society.) This is how it breaks down:  In the United States more than 3.5 million Americans are challenged by this disorder in 2014. The CDC would report that 1 in 68 births resulted in a child living with diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Four of five children diagnosed with autism would be boys, a statistic that has been steady since Autism was first widely recognized. In 2017, the cause for this disorder is still a mystery. With the rise of diagnosis came the advent of new treatment models, the most successful and recognized of which is ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis.

In 2017, Carlton Palms, under a different owner, offers a full battery of interventions and living environments even at the facility itself faces imminent closure. 
It's unknown to the public what model or models Carlton Palms first employed. However, as early as 1975 Mazik claimed he was utilizing operant conditioning when interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquire for a Feb. 16, 1975 story about Autism.( Feb. 16, 1975. Regardless, the model adopted at the original Au Clair is arguably cruelty. But, in 1987, no one in Florida knows the truth behind each of the first six children to travel to Carlton Palms in its opening week. 

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Thanks for the re-zoning, Sincerely Carlton Palms

Thanks for the zoning. Sincerely, Carlton Palms
The Orlando Sentinel
(Orlando, Florida)
08 Dec 1987, Tue  p 48

August 12, 1986 - Mazik receives rezoning and strikes out to develop Carlton Palms. 

December 8, 1987- Merry Christmas! A year and half later, Carlton Palms shows a philanthropic side, hypothetically. Or it's been strong-armed by those political gunners in Mount Dora who only on-boarded their support of The Palms once they'd done the shakedown, hypothetically of course.

Either way, it's one of the
Big Three Political Moves -
1) Bribe, hypothetically
2) Blackmail, hypothetically
3) Philanthropic activity
from the pure in heart,
You be the Judge! Just do it quietly as to not stir the sleeping beasts!

It was the best of times and the best of Mazik. He'd spent two decades hobnobbing and noshing with the political and social elite in Delaware. He'd re-established himself down the coast in Florida. He'd refined his style, learned a few tricks, come into himself and reveled in how he'd won the Florida rezoning that had allowed his project, Carlton Palm's Educational Center to come to life.

Merry Christmas, Mount Dora! We're thinking of you! 
See the source image

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Worthwhile, Lake County to become a national focal point (1986)

On August 7, 1986 the Florida Sentinel ran its own endorsement of the Carlton Palms project, primarily rejecting the fears of potential neighbors. The article offered the facts...some very incorrect, such as "autistic children are totally non-aggressive" and "autistic youngers are incapable of delinquency" and "autistic children are not prone to wander and roam." My personal favorite, "Carlton Palms will make Lake County a national focal point for the teaching and training of autistic children." Yep. Lake County did in fact become a national focal point -- for the abuse and murder of children institutionalized in Carlton Palms and its sister facilities. Let us never forget that.

The Orlando Sentinel
(Orlando, Florida)
07 Aug 1986, Thu  • Other Editions  • Page 92

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A momentary interuption to lay the ground rules of public comment

Echo has existed for almost a year. She grew out of another blog, Children and Educators First, which after an eight year run has been retired, although some of those posts are archived on Echo. As C&E 1st, there was only one public comment rule - Families are off limits.  Nobody's kids or spouses or girlfriends. It could get gritty at times, snarky, and even brutal.  Education in Delaware brings out the ugly.  

But, Echo is a different beast.  A project. A challenge to write about a single topic blog, to tell the story of special education for very particular children through the decades since de-institutionalization became law.

It became very clear, very early on, that Delaware had a particularly special private special education program residing at the "gingerbread house" in Bear.  In once-upon-a-time horse country, the movers and shakers marveled at the owner, his wife, his horse, and his dedication to teaching the children most challenged by what is known today as the autism spectrum. And then the 1970s happened and the gingerbread melted away and what was left was a scathing five day series of stories to be followed by months and years of newsworthy updates about the facility once known as Au Clair.

For the last year, Echo floated the blogosphere, quietly collecting readers and research. However, recent events in Mount Dora, Florida, primarily lawsuits targeting community members for slander/libel have led Echo to establish HOUSE RULES on COMMENTS, although it pains us to do that:
1. No Slander/Libel. What will likely be the undoing of the current cases stem from the fact that the complainant must establish he is not what has been accused of being rather than the defendant proving that he is. However, we are so inclined, Echo cannot publish comments that are derogatory in nature. Sorry, no henchmen here. :) Those descriptions may be well-earned, but they will find no home on these pages. Comments may be edited to remove content that could inspire another fruitless lawsuit. We do not support further overburdening the judicial system with unnecessary combat.
2. Be good to each other. You never know when you need a saving grace.  And it is often the person least likely who will offer help. Never be too proud to take it.
3. Because we are bit tongue in cheek around here... you have to balance the pain, hurt, abuse, and death with some amount of humor and humility; this is a quiet zone.  QUIET ZONES are RIDING CROP, WHIFFLE BAT, and WRAP MAT-free.

Those are the house rules. Sorry for the intrusion. Perhaps tomorrow, if not Sunday, Echo will be back to work researching and writing about the entity that began as Au Clair, it's morph into Advoserv, it's expansion into other states, it's sealed settlements, and finally Bellwether, the latest owner. 

Sweet Dreams!

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Echo Goes to Florida where Silk is Better than Gold

Mazik in Dora

Echo's been busy packing for our relocation in Mt. Dora.  Of course, our arrival comes 35 years after Ken Mazik received approval to open an "educational facility" for the treatment of mentally disabled children while also providing on-the-job training for the then-next generation of specialist treating  children with similar disabilites.  It was, by all means, a rather compassionate action...  If you didn't know Mazik's history in Delaware. On July 31, 1986, the Lake Sentinel covered the story.

It wasn't Mazik's first visit to Florida, but rather part of an effort to grow Au Clair into a conglomerate of facilities. Mazik was making a move to become a leading treatment provider by utilizing his geo-political capital. The Sentinel cited the developer as Au Clair Properties. However, it wasn't just that easy. Mazik had to overcome the objections of neighboring land owners (2) and the vote for a recommendation to rezone the property to transform a former nursing home into a "public facility district" was a tight 5-4.  The Sentinel also mentioned that Mazik intended, some time down the road, to build another facility in Orlando.

Mazik presented a plan to serve 20 -30 children ages 7 to 18 and to provide them with 24 hour care.  Additionally, college grads in related fields would have an opportunity to work with Mazik's staff to gain firsthand experience treating children with autism.  It wasn't long after opening that the plan changed.

With the recommendation in hand Mazik was scheduled to face the county on August 12, 1986.

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Mazik v. Decision Making, Inc., 449 A.2d 202

Before we move into the Villa we've rented near Dora, there are just a few odds and ends that need tying up. Well, two really.  And since this one is the lesser of the two, we'll start with it. Below is the link to an original post from last January.

The litigious engagements in Mt Dora have led Echo to dig deeper into Au Clair's 1980 salvation and revival. As of 1980, Au Clair had been operating on nothing more than a pipe dream. On August 27th, the original Au Clair location in Bear, Delaware, received a 6 month provisional license after operating without a license for more than a year. That license was predicated on the hiring of independent program manager, Dean Alexander. 

On December 6th, 1980, Margaret Kirk of the News Journal reported that Mazik's new program manager, Dean Alexander was no longer with company.  He had lasted less than six months. Au Clair espoused that he left Delaware due to a critical illness of a family member in California. 

Au Clair's explanation was plausible and Mazik moved quickly to replace him. Thirty-seven years later, the real reason behind Alexander's departure may have surfaced in a little known court case, but oft referenced (in legal briefs anyway) Mazik v. Decision Making, Inc., 449 A.2d 202. It began on July 29, 1980 and took two years to complete the full judicial process. 

At the hearing, Kenia Casarreal Alexander [**3]  testified that she and her husband were unsophisticated in business circles and were quite reluctant to loan defendant the money which constituted a substantial portion of their life savings. Mrs. Alexander testified that, initially, defendant did not wish to be personally liable on the note and, instead, wanted the plaintiff to loan the money to Colonial House, Inc. which would then be liable on the note. However, the Alexanders were reluctant to lend money to a corporation and it was only after a "long night" of "laborious" negotiations that defendant agreed to substitute his own name for that of Colonial House, Inc. as maker of the judgment note. Mrs. Alexander also testified that she and her husband agreed to lend defendant the money only after he assured them that a judgment note was a safe proposition.

Mazik v. Decision Making, Inc., 449 A.2d 202, 203, 1982 Del. LEXIS 394, *2-3

Because this is an appeal, you have to read it backwards.  Mazik was appealing the decision of a lower court regarding a loan he took from Dean and Kenia Alexander. While he appears to be the plaintiff, he, in fact, is the defendant in the original suit which originated when he defaulted on a loan from his newly hired independent program manager, Dean Alexander. 
The defendant admitted at the hearing that his negotiations with the Alexanders took "quite a bit of time", and that their recalcitrance at the idea of lending money to Colonial Homes, Inc. was overcome only after he substituted his name for the corporation's name on the note and repeatedly assured the Alexanders that the judgment note would ensure the safety of their investment.  [**4]  Although defendant testified that he did not know that he was waiving certain rights when he signed the judgment note, he conceded that it was he who drafted the instrument and that he read it before signing it. The defendant stated that he had previously signed and made loans on behalf of the Au Clair School "as a matter of course." The defendant further testified that he utilized a store-bought set of legal forms as a guide in drawing up the judgment note.
Remember, read it backwards.  The original defendant, Mazik, admitted that he had to work his butt off to get the Alexanders to agree to the loan.  Furthermore, it was Mazik who drafted the loan documents using "store-bought set of legal forms as a guide in drawing upon the judgement note." And it was Mazik who defaulted on the loan and Mazik who attempted to seek judicial relief that he had already waived when he wrote his own note for the Alexanders to sign.  And it all culminated with a July 16, 1982 Superior Court opinion that fell on the side of the Alexanders. 

To really hammer home the point here's the timeline:

July 29, 1980, Dean Alexander has been hired and is both an employee of Mazik and tenant.  Mazik approaches the Alexanders for a loan.
August 27, 1980, Au Clair gets a provisional license due to Alexander's hiring.
December 6, 1980, Alexander severs his employment with Mazik to presumably care for a sick family member in California.
July 16, 1982, the appeals court finds on behalf of the Alexanders. 

What really happened between December 6, 1980 and July 16, 1982 was a series of legal maneuvers in which Mazik tried at every chance to get himself off the hook for the loan from the Alexanders, culminating with a Superior Court Appeal that held the judgement of the lower courts. With that loan document, Mazik had literally written himself into a corner. 

And for that, we say, Thank You, Mr. Mazik, for your contributions to "case law" otherwise known as "judge-made law" and for those cases that have followed the precedent you set. You continue to expound the law and will due so in perpetuity until such time as a judge rebukes your case law, this precedent, and redefines the applicable case law. For those keeping score, that's likely to never happen. And Mr. Mazik can derive no source of income either way - from the citation of his case by succeeding cases to the day a judge/courts change their reliance on this judicial opinion to a more sophisticated one. In the world of legal researchers, Mr. Mazik, you've just gone viral.

Confidential to Lauren:  This is why you don't get sued. You cite your facts. There exists no more weighted citation than one to the judicial court system, unless as matter of cause, you get to be part of a case that actually lands in the SCOTUS. And this particular one has been holding for 35 years. 

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