Disputes, distrust simmer in council campaign
Several disagreements center on one loan.
By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN
Published March 23, 2007
TAMPA - They are two civic activists who teamed up to fight many of the same causes. But that friendly relationship is showing some strain as the runoff election day approaches.
Distrust and bad management are just some of the accusations that are surfacing in the race between Tampa City Council candidates Joseph Caetano and Frank Margarella.
For instance, Caetano once loaned money to Margarella. That much they agree about.
But the men disagree on the amount: Caetano said it was for $3,000, Margarella said it was about $1,500.
And they disagree on the timing: Caetano says it was about 18 months ago; Margarella recalls it being about four years ago.
And they disagree about the repayment period: Caetano says he got his money back after about two months. Margarella says he paid it back in two weeks.
Caetano said if asked again, he wouldn't lend Margarella anything because he doesn't trust him. He pointed to campaign money Margarella used for lavish dinners and rounds of golf to entertain supporters.
"When you get deep in financial trouble, you wheel and deal," Caetano said. "After a while, your wheeling and dealing gets in your way. You can only do so much. Look what he did with the money that people gave him for his campaign."
Caetano accused Margarella of wanting the City Council District 7 seat because he needs the money. City council members will make about $40,000 a year starting this next term.
Margarella said he borrowed the money at the time because he was trying to get a new business venture off the ground.
"Whether I got a loan from him as a friend is irrelevant," Margarella said.
He then lashed back, saying Caetano, who owns a space in a New Tampa strip mall, has been a bad landlord.
"I don't want to get into this mud hole, but garbage doesn't get picked up and his buildings are in disrepair," Margarella said. "He fixed it up recently because he's trying to sell it."
Margarella said that as a real estate agent, he tried to steer tenants to Caetano's building spaces. He thinks the bad publicity is coming from Caetano's camp.
When asked to produce a copy of the canceled check, Caetano complied. For the record, the check was dated June 29, 2005, in the amount of $3,000.
Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 269-5312.