Pain management clinic founder/owner who worked with county and state leaders to fight opioid epidemic cites three Facebook posts Robinson wrote
A Sarasota County resident has filed a lawsuit against Venice CPA Eric Robinson, alleging that Robinson defamed him in Facebook posts in recent months that involved Sarasota County School Board issues.
The plaintiff is Paul Sloan, founder, owner and administrator of Sarasota County Pain Management Clinic (PMC), who points out in the complaint that he was a “leader in ending the ‘Pill Mill’/Opioid Epidemic” in the county.
Sloan contends that Robinson called him a “Drug dealer” in one Facebook post and wrote, “Paul Sloan makes money destroying peoples lives” in a second one, as noted in the lawsuit, which was filed on Dec. 7 in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Sarasota County.
Robinson often has been called the “prince of dark money,” as advocates for Democratic and progressive candidates for county office have decried his work for political action committees (PAC) that have sent out mailers to smear such candidates. Robinson is a past chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota County and a prior member of the Sarasota County School Board. Through his CPA firm in Venice — Robinson Gruters & Roberts — he routinely handles campaign finance reporting for Republican candidates for the Sarasota County Commission. Among those have been Commissioner Michael Moran and former Commissioner Alan Maio. Robinson also handled that responsibility for School Board member Karen Rose, who was elected in 2020, as well as for new School Board members Robyn Marinelli and Tim Enos, who won their seats in the Aug. 23 Primary Election.
On Dec. 12, Circuit Court Judge Hunter W. Carroll issued an order calling for an initial case management hearing at 1:30 p.m. on April 28, 2023, court records show. That will be conducted at the South County Courthouse in Venice. It also will be viewable via Zoom, the order notes.
Further, the order explains that the complaint “has been designated as a ‘general track’ case.” It adds, “Jury cases should be disposed of within 18 months of filing, and nonjury cases should be disposed of within 12 months of filing.” The order cites the Florida Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration as the basis for those timelines.
Sloan is seeking more than $30,000 in damages, the complaint notes. He is being represented by Sarasota attorney Robert E. Turffs, the complaint adds.
The cover sheet for the complaint, as shown in the 12th Judicial Court docket, shows that under the heading Amount of Claim, the box with the range from $30,001 to $50,000 has been checked.
The lawsuit points out that Sloan “is the official point of contact (POC) on  U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration Controlled Substance Licenses.” Therefore, the complaint contends, Robinson’s social media statements “threaten [Sloan’s] livelihood.”
Sloan says his clinic has been licensed by the Florida State Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) since 2009. It was the first pain management clinic to receive such authority, the lawsuit continues, adding that the AHCA is “the same agency that licenses hospitals in Florida.” The clinic still holds that license, the complaint notes.
Further since 2010, Sloan’s clinic has been licensed through the Florida Department of Health, the lawsuit points out.
From 2007 to 2012, the complaint continues, Sloan worked with sheriff’s office detectives from six counties, who were tracking prescription drug diversion. Sloan provided them information “that resulted in the arrest of dozens of … suspects, many actually being taken out of his clinic in handcuffs,” the complaint adds.
In 2010, the complaint notes, Sloan proposed a pain clinic moratorium to the Sarasota County commissioners, “which they enacted quickly.” Further, the complaint says, he requested that the commissioners “pass a resolution to be delivered to the Governor, supporting the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) that the Governor was threatening to end.” The commissioners, the complaint points out, “passed this resolution in record time.”
Moreover, the lawsuit says, Sloan drafted the language that ended up comprising “the core of the Sarasota Pain Clinic Ordinance.”
He also lobbied successfully for a state requirement that an individual show a photo ID to a pharmacy when seeking to obtain pain medication, the complaint continues.
Further, the lawsuit points out, Sloan “spent nearly two years working with the [state] Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine Joint Committee” on a document that became the Pain Clinic Rules and Regulations. He also was the only pain management clinic owner/administrator to take part in the rulemaking process for the State Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, for which he was “an early proponent,” the complaint points out.
Additionally, the lawsuit says, he is a past president and CEO of the Florida Society of Pain Management Providers.
The Facebook posts
The complaint provides details about the three Facebook posts in which Sloan alleges Robinson defamed him.
The first appeared on a page created for Sarasota County School Board candidate Dawnyelle Singleton, who ended up losing in the Aug. 23 Primary to incumbent School Board member Bridget Ziegler; Ziegler captured 56.34% of the votes, the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections website shows.
On July 14, the complaint says, Robinson wrote, “ ‘Paul Sloan (tagged) Why won’t you disclose where all the money is coming [from] for the [Sarasota] Herald Tribune Ads. The fact that a Drug dealer is supporting a candidate tells me everything I need to know.”
Although the School Board races officially are nonpartisan, Ziegler and the two other winners of seats, also as a result of the August Primary, were endorsed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who even came to Sarasota to campaign for them prior to that primary election.
Then, the complaint continues, on July 25, on the Sarasota County School District’s Transparency Project Facebook page, Robinson posted the following: “ ’Paul Sloan makes money destroying peoples lives.’ ”
Finally, on Sept. 16, the complaint says, Robinson wrote the following on the Herald-Tribune’s Facebook page: “ ‘Paul Sloan (tagged) aren’t you the guy who peddled pain killers to little children?’ ”
A composite exhibit of those posts is included as an exhibit with the complaint.
Those comments not only constitute defamation, the lawsuit contends, but they also accuse Sloan of committing a crime and “purport a character inconsistent with his lawful business. As such, the defamatory allegations tend to injure his status and reputation,” the complaint argues.
Sloan contends that the “false allegations of conduct” adversely reflect on his “professional business ethics and practices, and are ‘per se’ injurious.”
Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute explains that per se, which is Latin, means “by itself. “For example,” the Institute continues, “in tort law, a statutory violation is negligence per se.”
The Institute further explains, “A tort is an act or omission that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability.”