Janet Reno’s old kayak and her 2004 Toyota Camry were seized in Stuart this week as a billionaire-backed mining company pursues a $4.4 million judgement against Reno’s sister, former Martin County commissioner Maggy Hurchalla.
The swirly blue kayak, bought in 1996 by Hurchalla so she and Reno could paddle the Potomac River when Reno was U.S. Attorney General, was one of two taken from Hurchalla’s yard Monday by the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.
The Camry replaced Reno’s 1999 Ford Ranger pickup – “the little red truck” she drove during her 2002 campaign for governor. She gave it to Hurchalla when Reno’s Parkinson’s disease made it too difficult to drive.
The seizures are the latest twist in a years-long court battle brought by Lake Point Restoration, which is co-owned by former Wellington resident and one-time Olympic equestrian hopeful George Lindemann, Jr., against the 77-year-old Hurchalla.
A writ of execution signed Monday by the Martin County Court ordered sheriff’s deputies to take the three items, including the Camry, which Hurchalla said has 207,000 miles on it and no air conditioning.
“The value of what they are seizing is clearly not very much,” said Hurchalla’s attorney Virginia Sherlock. “Lake Point doesn’t have any interest in making money, or getting their judgement satisfied, they are just trying to hurt Maggy.”
Kelley Blue Book puts the trade-in value of the Camry at between $754 and $1,475. The kayak Hurchalla purchased for Reno in 1996 was bought used from a summer camp. The other kayak is 15 years old, Hurchalla said.
“She’s a 77-year-old woman who still goes out in her kayak and enjoys it to clear her mind, and they’ve taken her kayaks away,” Sherlock said.
Hurchalla, a stalwart Martin County environmentalist, lost a court case in February in which Lake Point charged that she lied to Martin County commissioners about the destruction of wetlands in an effort to kill a 2009 agreement that allowed the company to mine as part of a public works project with the South Florida Water Management District.
Lake Point’s attorney, Ethan Loeb, said $22 million in damages was done to the company.
“Ms. Hurchalla is trying to make this about the owners of Lake Point. It’s not about them,” said Lake Point spokeswoman Honey Rand in a statement. “At any point, Ms. Hurchalla could have admitted that she lied and the case would have gone away. She created this situation and she alone could have resolved it.”
Hurchalla, who has an appeal pending in the 4th District Court of Appeal, said she was only exercising her First Amendment right to contact her elected officials with concerns.
“It’s really ludicrous,” Hurchalla said about the seizure of the two kayaks and Camry. “I really do think if someone doesn’t stand up to the big bullies, all the little bullies will come out too.”
Lake Point also has garnished Hurchalla’s bank accounts, Sherlock said.
For Lake Point, the February ruling was a third victory in a five-year court battle that cowed the South Florida Water Management District and Martin County, both of which settled related cases with Lake Point in 2017. The district’s settlement, approved in August, promises to buy 50,000 tons of rubble annually from Lake Point’s mine in western Martin County for 15 years. After 50 years, the district gets the mined land for water treatment and storage ponds.
Martin County agreed to pay $12 million for a non-appraised, 400-acre piece of land it doesn’t want and write an apology to Lake Point principals, including Lindemann, an heir to a cellphone and cable TV fortune.
Martin County Commissioners Sarah Heard and Ed Fielding and former commissioner Anne Scott are facing criminal charges of violating public records in a case related to email exchanges with Hurchalla about Lake Point.