Finance report lacks details

A City Council candidate calls it a rookie mistake.

Published February 23, 2007

TAMPA - Vagueness peppers the campaign spending reports of New Tampa's Frank Margarella, a City Council candidate.

Meals with potential supporters at Hunter's Green Country Club merit a single expenditure of $1,809. Spending of $1,244 is listed to a North Carolina printing company for which no public records appear to exist. Margarella reimbursed himself $783 for "Misc. Campaign Expenses." The country club expenditures may violate Florida election laws, which require that campaigns report "the amount, date and purpose of each such expenditure," plus other details.

"I'm a rookie candidate," Margarella said. "I'm trying to do a lot of things. ... If I made a mistake, I will fix it."

Margarella has outpaced his opponents financially, raising and spending nearly $15,000. He is running for the city's District 7 seat against Joseph Caetano, a hair salon owner from New Tampa, and Charlie Perkins, a businessman from Forest Hills. The election is March 6.

Margarella, a 56-year-old commercial Realtor, said business debts prompted him to refinance his $233,000 home in Hunter's Green five times over the last eight years.

Margarella said the expenditures to Nationwide Printing of Charlotte, N.C., are bona fide, although he thinks the woman who ran the company has closed it and left North Carolina. He said Nationwide printed envelopes and invitations, work that was subcontracted through Postnet, a Wesley Chapel printer and shipper.

Margarella's reports show reimbursements to himself last autumn approaching $4,000. Several are vague in public records, because the filing form used by Margarella allowed room for only a few words. So a $1,526 expenditure is explained as "Reimbursement for In."

Bill Coats can be reached at 813 269-5309 or coats@sptimes.com.