We caught a few minutes the other day the League of Women Voters debate on the City of Tampa Television channel featuring District 3 candidates Chris Hart & Yolie Capin. In particular, we caught the part where the candidates ask a question of their opponent. That's where Hart alleged that Capin had been less than honest in her business transactions in the past, saying If youve not followed your word in the past, how do we expect you to keep your word in the future? Capin denied that was the case, and Jack Nicas of the St. Pete Times was motivated to find out the truth was behind the anecdote Hart alluded to about a bridal shop Capin once owned.
The verdict? Hart was wrong. From the St. Pete Times Buzz Blog posted Thursday afternoon, Nicas writes:
On Wednesday, after trying to verify the claim for two days, Harts campaign admitted it did not have any evidence to support it.
Obviously, I had inaccurate information on that and for that Ill apologize, Hart said Wednesday.
He said a campaign volunteer had told him the story, which sparked his memory about a tale years ago of a local bridal shop cheating its customers. He said he assumed the volunteers story was accurate when his lawyers later showed him documents that Capin once owned a bridal shop and was involved in a judgment in small-claims court. Those documents show that in 1998, the court ordered Capin to pay a collection agency $775.70 in connection with her shop, Carlis Bridal Consignment, Inc.
Capin said she leased a credit card system that did not work properly and returned it. The company then sued her and won.
Hart, a former Hillsborough County Commissioner, and Capin, who was appointed to the District 4 South Tampa City Council seat last year, are in a run-off election to fill the District 3 citywide Council seat. Voters will decide on March 22.
Last week, during Capins response to the question in the televised debate, Hart interjected that she had twice been sued successfully for not paying sales taxes. That claim was also inaccurate, she said.
Documents show that the state placed tax liens on her jewelry business in 1987 and 1988 for not paying a total of $6,500 in taxes. Other state records show she satisfied the liens about 21 months later.
On Wednesday, Capin posted on her campaign website letters from her accountant and attorney stating that the tax liens were erroneous. She had closed her jewelry business in late 1987, and the state mistakenly issued the liens months later, they said. When Capin told state oficials they had requested taxes from a closed business, the state said it could only erase the liens by filing that she had satisfied them, according to her accountant and lawyer.
In an e-mail, Capin said, My reaction to Mr. Hart is that he is deceptive , reckless and irresponsible with the truth. He knew—- or should have known—-that his statements were complete falsehood
Forget about the nonsense that these municipal elections in Tampa are non-partisan. Some of them - like the District 3 contest - are highly partisan between the Republican Hart and Democrat Capin, both of whom have been active in Hillsborough County politics over the years.