Fired Largo seabird sanctuary founder still fundraising for non-profit

in Local Courts by

A seabird sanctuary founder is continuing to seek donations for his nonprofit, even after being fired and replaced by his son.

Now the two generations are heading to court.

Ralph Heath, 71, founded Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in 1972 as a not-for-profit corporation. Located in Indian Shores, Suncoast hit some turbulence recently when Heath’s children started taking control of the business.

In a suit filed against their father, the children claim Heath took donations from the sanctuary for personal use.

A settlement was reached September 2016. Under the new terms, Suncoast would be renamed Seaside Seabird Sanctuary and Andrew von Gotard, Heath’s son, would replace him as president and executive director.

However, another suit recently been filed by Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, suggests the nonprofit is still up and running in a new location.

In line with the suit, filed Dec. 15, Suncoast hired Global Printing to create promotional materials. Suncoast provided Global with letterheads, brochures and mailing lists, but now Suncoast cannot get the material back. Suncoast operates its bird sanctuary in Largo “almost wholly dependent on donations.” No access to those promotional materials and mail lists could be “devastating and crippling injury to its business.”

Suncoast is seeking the court’s help, by suing Global on one count for injunctive relief.

The suit lists Suncoast address as 12388 Starkey Road, Largo, a warehouse raided by the FWC in May 2015. According to an article published at the time, the raid led to charges being filed against Heath.

An article about the suit filed by Heath’s children, staff had changed out the locks to the sanctuary to keep Heath from entering. The article also claims that Heath’s children took over the debt of the sanctuary to prevent it from foreclosing.