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Tampa Catholic church sues prominent local GOP activist Terri Gaffney

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

When the words “Republican” and “Catholic Church” are placed into the same sentence, one generally assumes a close and loving relationship. After all, “God Bless” is the staple greeting among many conservatives (and is made all the more powerful when adding “America” at the end of it.)

But one lawsuit filed by Christ the King Catholic Church against the general counsel of the Hillsborough County Republican Party proves not all Republicans are in favor with the Catholic Church.

The Tampa church is suing Terri Gaffney, a former prosecutor turned general counsel for a wealth management company, and the Hillsborough GOP for possession of the house formerly owned by her father.

According to a lawsuit filed May 22, John Gaffney died in 2011 and allegedly willed his entire estate to the church. But Gaffney slighted the church by deeding the home to a family trust run by her 25-year-old daughter Sarah Sussman in 2012.

According to Hillsborough County property records, the home is worth $344,000.

The church wants to either retain possession of the home located at 119 S. Clark Avenue in Tampa or be paid out proceeds from its sale. The church is also asking to deny Gaffney any reimbursement she might seek from her late father’s estate for costs she incurred caring for him prior to his death.

That brings up another dispute. In 2013, Gaffney sued the estate for $285,000 she said she spent on her father’s care.

Hopefully, Gaffney doesn’t plan to run for office anytime soon because hijacking an estate left to a Catholic church might not seem very godly to some. That probably wouldn’t bode well among those who are God-fearing Republicans.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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