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Direct mail round-up: Flier claims Will Newton got paid for days he didn’t work as a firefighter

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

First he was portrayed as a bobble head doll who says “no” to everything. Now a negative mailer targeting St. Pete City Council candidate Will Newton pictures the candidate wearing an obnoxious Hawaiian shirt, a crown made of flowers, and a hula skirt all squeezed into a life float.

The heading under the photo says, “Will Newton, Beach Days With Our Tax Dollars.”

The other side explains the “beach days.”

“We don’t know if Will was actually hanging out at the beach, but we do know that as a firefighter, Will Newton abused the system and got paid tax dollars for work he didn’t do,” the flier reads under the headline, “living it up and having taxpayers pay him for days he doesn’t work.

The paragraph continues to explain that former fire Chief Jim Large “was so concerned that Will Newton was having other firefighers work his shifts, they had to change the policy.”

A Tampa Bay Times article dated Dec. 15, 2013 explains that Large changed the agency’s shift-swap policy “not because he suspected widespread abuse,” but because “he was concerned with just one firefighter.”

That was Newton.

“He was never here,” Large was quoted in the article. “I felt there was abuse, but I couldn’t prove he was not filling out the form properly.”

That quote is also pictured on the campaign mailer.

The mailer also calls into question a $32,000 tax bill Newton owed up until 2012 when he paid it off. They quote the Times twice from an article that pointed out that Newton refused to explain where the back taxes came from.

“When twice asked in person at a Tuesday news conference about the source of his income, Newton remained silent with a smile on his face as shrugged his shoulders with raised palms.”

Newton later told SaintPetersBlog, but not the Times, that the money stemmed from work as an independent contractor for the city’s firefighter union. He has still failed to provide any documentation corroborating or further explaining the income.

“If Will won’t be honest with us now, can we trust him on the City Council?”

What’s interesting, and where the Newton campaign will probably push back against his opponent, Lisa Wheeler-Brown, is who paid for the mailer. That would be the Florida Voters Fund.

Wheeler-Brown’s campaign is being headed by Meagan Salisbury of the company Blue Ticket Consulting. Her fiance and fellow Blue Ticket owner, Tom Alte, has also consulted on the campaign.

He is listed as the chairman, treasurer and registered agent of the group. Adding to the ways the Newton campaign could respond to the mailer is a recent complaint filed with the Florida Division of Elections about a previous anti-Newton mailer claiming it served as an illegal contribution.

Things continue to get ugly between the two candidates. Another mailer out this week slams Wheeler-Brown for her past criminal history. And previously Wheeler-Brown claimed the Newton campaign accused her of profiting from her son’s death after reports surfaced questioning a foundation created in her son’s name.

Many political watchers in St. Petersburg argue this is the nastiest City Council race in distant memory.

As such, the race is expected to be a close one. The two face off at the polls Tuesday.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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