Planner cancels Leaded Tea Party picnic
Sept. 5 event will not be held despite permit being issued
Publication Date: 08/22/09
A Ponte Vedra businessman announced Friday that he canceled his so-called Leaded Tea Party picnic to which attendees were encouraged to bring their firearms to shoot on a gun range while their children rode horses, and their families were entertained by a live band.
Richard Willich, the president of medical billing company MDI Holdings Inc
., who was recently named the Florida chairman of the conservative organization Americans for Prosperity,
announced in a news release that the "liberty event" was canceled because of "government opposition, personal attacks ... from the left and insurance companies refusing to insure the event because of negative publicity."
St. Johns County officials last week ordered the gun range on the company's property off Nocatee Parkway shut down because the company didn't have the proper permit.
Willich said the property is used by MDI's security officers for training.
He applied for a temporary permit for the range that would allow guns to be fired Sept. 5, the scheduled date of the event. The county granted it Thursday.
County spokeswoman Karen Pan said his staff was cooperative during the process.
"From our perspective, we were very happy to issue the permit," Pan said. "It brought him into compliance for what he wanted to do with the land."
Addressing the accusation of "government opposition," she said, "Everything was clear on our end. ... Realistically, he had the government approval."
But, the release stated, the plans for the event had "gone astray."
"The focus shifted from the liberty event to an attack on Richard Willich," it stated. "Due to misrepresentation, on websites, in the media, and by certain fringe groups, the event has been cancelled."
The Florida Times-Union reported earlier this week that Willich felt the Second Amendment afforded him the right to hold the event.
"It has always been my understanding that we have the right to assemble," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "We have the right of free speech, the right to carry guns. I don't know when or how the local county code person can say I don't have those rights. I don't like it at all."
A spokeswoman for MDI did not return telephone messages left for further comment.
Click here to return to story:
© The St. Augustine Record