Candidate sends 2nd flier day after lawsuit

Published September 3, 2006

Many Pinellas voters on Saturday received a second mailing from judicial candidate Robert "Bo" Michael that suggests his opponent, Jack Day, is a tax cheat.

Voters received a similar mailing from Michael on Friday, prompting Day to file a defamation lawsuit against Michael in circuit court.

The mailing also prompted local lawyers, including the second-in-command of State Attorney Bernie McCabe's office, to scold Michael, saying he was being dishonest and misleading with voters.

Day said Saturday that the second mailing also will be included in his lawsuit against Michael. Day said Michael is trying to fool voters into thinking he is a tax cheat just a few days before Tuesday's election.

Day paid about $370 in penalties to the IRS for underestimating his taxes in the late 1990s. Michael's ads suggest Day committed some sort of tax fraud.

In fact, private lawyers commonly pay tax penalties for underestimating their taxes. Two private lawyers and an accountant interviewed by the St. Petersburg Times on Friday said that's because their income fluctuates and is difficult to estimate.

The lawyers, along with Bruce Bartlett, the chief assistant state attorney in Pinellas and Pasco counties, criticized Michael for the misleading ad.

"The mailing suggests some sort of dishonesty or totally inappropriate behavior. It's a shame that judicial candidates have to resort to last-minute tactics like this to smear their opponent," Bartlett said. "It makes the whole system look bad. It makes it clear who the better judicial candidate is by far. And it's not Bo Michael."

Private lawyer John Trevena, who said he has paid tax penalties several times, called Michael's ad vile, vicious and misleading.

The lawyers said the mailing reminded them of stunts pulled by John Renke III, a Pasco judge who was booted off the bench this year because of campaign misconduct.

Michael has run for judge three times, losing each time. His father is a retired judge. He and Day are seeking a seat in the circuit that includes Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Michael did not return a phone message Saturday evening, but wrote in an e-mail sent to the Times on Saturday morning: "I have simply presented this information to the voters of Pinellas and Pasco County."

This is not the first campaign in which Michael has used questionable tactics.

When he ran for judge in 2000, he said he wanted to start a local drug court, apparently not realizing that a drug court was already on its way to Pinellas County after court officials had worked on the plan for years. Michael also apparently didn't understand that only the chief judge can decide whether a new court can be established.

Chief Judge Susan Schaeffer at the time said of Michael: "He just doesn't understand how the court system works."