Democratic House candidate Shawna Vercher’s financial disclosures raise more questions than answers

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House District 67 hopeful Shawna Vercher’s finances are not quite what they appear, according to state reports intended to give voters an accurate idea of a candidate’s economic health.

Instead, Vercher’s financial disclosures raise more questions than they answer.

Florida politicians and candidates are required to file reports with the state on July 1, so Floridians have a chance to examine favorable changes in lawmakers’ income, such as assets like houses, stock or vehicles.

For the second year, this information is available online.

Vercher is running as a Democrat for the seat currently held by term-limited Republican Rep. Ed Hooper in the district that covers much of North Pinellas County, including Clearwater and Largo.

Vercher’s financial disclosure, dated June 12, gives her net worth as of December 31, 2013 as negative $1,882,250.

Her liabilities include $175,754 owed to Wells Fargo, $21,100 to E*TRADE and $7,685 to American Education Services. She also owes $1,718,375 from the verdict a case against former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who sued for $1.3 million in a civil trial against Vercher and her company, VTi Media.

In 2012, a jury determined Vercher withheld proceeds from sales of Donaghy’s memoir, Personal Foul, published by VTi Media. With the addition of legal fees, the court ruled that VTi owed Donaghy $1.7 million, with Vercher personally owing him $1.525 million.

On November 12, 2012, Vercher declared bankruptcy.

In her report to the state, the author, public speaker and activist defined only three assets: household goods and personal effects worth $10,000, a home valued at $137,022 and $3,863 in an education-savings account.

Less than 14 months after Vercher’s bankruptcy filing — the as-of date of her financial disclosure — her bankruptcy petition prevents her from entering into any financial transactions of consequence.

For that reason, financial disclosures with the state should (one would expect) largely list the debts she submitted — under oath — in her bankruptcy proceeding.

It does not.

Vercher reported $96,886 in debts in a bankruptcy filing not listed on her campaign financial disclosure – serious omissions that could raise questions of fraudulent financial disclosures.

Significant obligations appear to be missing from Vercher’s financial disclosure, which are explicitly listed in the schedules of her bankruptcy petition: $12,743 owed to the Internal Revenue Service for 2009 income taxes, an American Express business credit-card debt totaling $20,903 and another business debt of $12,599 to Asset Acceptance LLC.

Vercher also listed personal credit-card debt of $4,565 to Discover Financial Services, $1,076 to Horizon Financial and a personal loan to Shari Vercher of $45,000 based on a personal loan.

Ethics complaints have become frequent occurrences in Florida politics. That is why the Legislature enacted online financial disclosures, as a major step to make it easier for public officers, employees and voters to access information on ethics laws.

What was meant to cast sunlight on a politician’s finances — with Vercher, sunlight only makes her finances murkier.

In a July 26 profile in the Tampa Bay Times, Vercher is painted as someone “at ease in front of the camera,” but she comes with a lot of baggage, mostly arising from her business dealings and loss of the $1.5 million jury verdict.

What’s more is that some of the passages in Vercher’s book — A Fearless Voice: How a National Scandal Made Me an Advocate for Building a Better America – are simply untrue, at least in the eye of several people familiar with her case, including Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe.

After Vercher made several outrageous accusations on how her trial was handled — especially by “misconduct” from Circuit Judge Pamela Campbell—the Times could not find anyone connected to the case, including Vercher’s attorney Carmen Vizcaino (or her law partner, Khurrum Wahid), who could corroborate any of the charges.

Campbell could not discuss cases on appeal, and court spokesman Ron Stuart also questioned Vercher’s story.

Disclosure: One of Vercher’s Republican opponents, Chris Latvala, is a client of Extensive Enterprises, the LLC which is the holding company of SaintPetersBlog.com

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.