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Candidate's finances, residency questioned

Commission candidate Will Jacoby faces scrutiny after filing for bankruptcy and participating in a Kentucky election.

By MAUREEN BYRNE AHERN, Times Staff Writer
Published February 29, 2004

ST. PETE BEACH - In his campaign literature, Will Jacoby, a candidate for the District 1 City Commission seat, says he wants to ensure fiscal responsibility.

"City government needs to be as financially responsible as we all are with our own financial affairs," the brochure reads.

Five years ago, Jacoby filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in federal court in Louisville, Ky. Records list liabilities at $753,486.

A Chapter 7 case is a liquidation proceeding, the most common form of bankruptcy, and is available to individuals, married couples, partnerships and corporations.

"This was strictly a business-related issue, and it hit me personally," said Jacoby, 53. "This is why people don't want to get involved, because people bring up things that aren't relevant to the issues of sand replenishment, issues of density and the issues of the future of our city.

"That's so far behind me," Jacoby said of the bankruptcy. "I want to move on with my life."

But his opponent in the District 1 race, Deborah Martohue, thinks Jacoby's bankruptcy is relevant and that voters have a right to know. "I don't know the details of Mr. Jacoby's situation, however he raised the issue of fiscal responsibility in his campaign literature," said Martohue, 38.

Jacoby has a picture of himself and his wife on a campaign brochure. Underneath the photo, a caption identifies Jacoby and his wife Rhoda and reads, "The Jacoby family has called St. Pete Beach home for almost 50 years."

Although he may have been a frequent visitor to St. Pete Beach and his uncle may have lived at 8100 Gulf Blvd. for decades, Jacoby recently told the Neighborhood Times he left Florida as a child when his family moved to Chicago. In 1974, he moved to the Louisville area, where he lived until 2002.

Martohue asked city officials to check Jacoby's claim that he was a full-time resident in St. Pete Beach for 12 months before a qualifying period ended at the end of December. He signed an affidavit at City Hall that said his residency in the city started Oct. 31, 2002.

Martohue asked city officials to investigate his claim when she discovered that his name was on a November 2002 ballot for an election in St. Regis Park, a suburb of Louisville.

City Clerk Theresa McMaster said city officials were satisfied with the explanation they received from Jacoby and would not take any more action. Jacoby wrote in a letter to the city that he decided to run for office in St. Regis Park in July 2002, but then moved to Florida in October 2002.

By then, Jacoby said, election officials in Jefferson County told him it was too late for his name to be removed from the ballot. He said officials told him his only option was to resign if he was elected.

Jacoby lost the election, but he still voted in it. Election officials in Jefferson County said Jacoby voted in person in the St. Regis Park election.

Again, Jacoby said he didn't see the relevancy between establishing residency in Florida in October 2002 and then voting in his former state a month later.

"I had lived most of the year there, and I felt strongly about a particular issue (in St. Regis Park)," Jacoby said. "It was my last time."

Jacoby also said in a recent Neighborhood Times story that he moved his business office to St. Pete Beach last October and is in the process of closing the business. However, on Nov. 10, 2003, Jacoby signed an official document from Kentucky's Secretary of State's office that said the mailing address for his company, Firebird Group, had been changed to the home he owns in Louisville. Kentucky records show the company is still active.

Jacoby said he is being unfairly targeted by the press. He said he wonders why no one questions Martohue about her as an attorney specializing in land use and zoning cases. Jacoby said her occupation could pose a conflict of interest if she was elected to the commission.

"I see that I'm catching a lot more heat over what I see as nothing," Jacoby said.

Martohue said her law office is in St. Petersburg and she does most of her work there, but most of her clients are from outside of Pinellas County. She also said the Florida Bar would prevent her from representing a client who would come before the commission.

[Last modified February 29, 2004, 01:15:11]


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