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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
David Zachem, at a recent Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting in St. Petersburg.
[Scott Keeler | Times]
David Zachem knows a lot of his fellow tax reps. And some of them, he says, are "jerks."
At a state workshop in Orlando last year, the outspoken St. Petersburg man called for the licensing of tax reps, arguing that it would help weed out unqualified people trying to flimflam the public.
"There are too many people loose on the state of Florida representing taxpayers that should not be," he said. "They are not qualified. They do a terrible job. They not only hurt the system, but they're hurting the taxpayers."
Like some tax reps, Zachem, 65, got into the business after some ups and downs.
A 6-foot Kentucky native with a flair for words, the longtime resident of St. Petersburg has been active in GOP politics for decades. In 1988, he managed the Florida presidential campaign of TV evangelist Pat Robertson and helped Jim Smith get elected Pinellas County property appraiser.
Three years later, Zachem quit as Smith's deputy after allegedly violating a rule that barred county employees from doing private appraisals within the county. (Zachem denied wrongdoing and was cleared by a state real estate board.)
In 1992, he became a tax rep. He has lobbied for property tax reform and worked as a political operative in property appraisers' campaigns and other elections.
Three times between 2000 and 2005, he was picked up in prostitution stings. In the first case, Zachem entered a pretrial program and the charge was ultimately dismissed. The second time, he was ticketed for driving without his glasses and a judge later dismissed the charge. The third time, the woman was arrested for prostitution but Zachem was not charged.
Zachem says he has never been convicted of anything and his personal conduct is irrelevant. Other tax reps, whom he won't identify, have had their own problems, he says.
He says his success record as a tax rep isn't great but neither is any other rep's. Last year, Zachem won about $76,000 in tax savings for the former Ashley Plaza Hotel (now a Howard Johnson's) and Canterbury Lane Apartments in Hillsborough. In Pinellas, he lost five formal appeals, including one for the Hilton St. Petersburg.