Girl Scouts leader tries to save camp in Parkland

9.5 acres given to Girl Scouts in 1961; Battle for land leads to contentious dispute


PARKLAND, Fla. – The Telogia Camp has been a retreat for Girl Scouts in the areas for 54 years, ever since Broward County taxpayers gave the 9.5 acres of wilderness in Parkland to them back in 1961, with the caveat written in the deed that it always be used for the benefits of Girl Scouts like ninth-grade student Brianna Barton.

"This place has been my home since I was in kindergarten," Barton said.

But now the Scouts' mother organization, Jupiter-based Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, wants to sell the land, claiming it is underutilized and too expensive to maintain.

Tuesday, the Broward County Commission is scheduled to vote to decide whether to let them do it. It has caused a major rift between local Girl Scout leaders, like Marci Talisman, and the Southeast Florida Council.

"I feel that Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida has kind of lost touch of what is important to girls," Talisman said.

Talisman is one of several scout leaders in Broward County trying to save the camp from what they claim is little more than a money grab by the organization and what they believe is a methodical liquidation of assets in Broward County in favor of surrounding counties also controlled by the council. She said the camp is utilized by hundreds of Girl Scouts and costs less than $20,000 a year to maintain.

Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter has presented the motion to allow the sale, saying she drives by the site every day, only to see it locked up. But Talisman and other leaders said the camp is utilized through the school year, and it is locked up at all times, whether girls are there or not.

Ritter may not have much support among her colleagues or staff. County Auditor Evan Lukic said in a meeting last month it was a bad deal for taxpayers.

'It would remove the protections on this property that the county's put in there," Lukic said.

Ritter didn't appreciate Lukic's opinion, lashing out at him during the meeting.

"You're not a county commissioner, Mr. Lukic," she said. "You're an auditor. If you want to be a county commissioner, run for office."

Earlier in the meeting, Ritter voiced anger at Lukic for not telling her that he was going to pull the proposal for discussion and that he wouldn't let her sit in on conversations he had in his own review of the proposal. She announced that she was going to go after Lukic's job.

"It has led me to believe, Mr. Lukic, that you should no longer hold this position as auditor," Ritter said, glaring at Lukic. "And it is my intention at some point in the near future to prepare a motion to terminate you."

Ritter then said the problem was that when she makes her effort to fire Lukic, he could then lobby all the commissioners and "tell them how wonderful he is," while the state's Sunshine Law forces her to publicly state her reasons for wanting to fire Lukic.

"That's an uncomfortable position for (anyone) to be involved in -- to have to publicly air the dirty laundry of this county, but I'm telling you now, Mr. Lukic, I am fully prepared to do so," Ritter said.

Lukic said he was only doing his job as auditor, that he had no personal stake in the Girl Scouts issue and that he found the entire situation "unfortunate."

Before the vote was deferred to Tuesday, some of Ritter's colleagues voiced little support for allowing the Girl Scout council to sell the public land.

"I do not support the item that is before us today," Commissioner Lois Wexler said.

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