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Lisa Wheeler-Brown email blast asks supporters to focus on issues, not allegations

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Lisa Wheeler-Brown is running damage control. An email blast went out Friday afternoon asking voters to focus on the issues and ignore recent allegations of campaign finance transgressions.

“You’ve been a dedicated supporter and have stood with me as we work to move St. Petersburg forward, so I wanted to make sure you had the facts. If you’ve been following the blogs, you may have seen that the campaign made a few mistakes when we were first getting started the beginning of this year,” the email begins.

“The blogs” refers to reports in SaintPetersblog that Wheeler-Brown had used campaign funds to repair a cracked tooth – to the tune of $500. The expense was listed as office space for more than six months payable to Advantage Village Academy. It was corrected last week to reflect payment to a dental company called Modern Day Smiles.

After that it was uncovered that Wheeler-Brown’s campaign had failed to report four months’ worth of in-kind contributions to Advantage Village Academy for office space. The errors have since been corrected after a series of amendments that sent campaign staff to City Hall twice in one day.

The letter concedes that Wheeler-Brown is a “first-time candidate” and that she “took advice from someone [she] trusted.”

“It turns out, it wasn’t good advice. We fired that consultant and brought in a new team with a proven record of success.”

The consultant the email is referring to is Nick Janovsky, head of Strategic Campaigns, which collected more than $9,000 from Wheeler-Brown’s campaign during his service. The campaign alleges the mistakes all stemmed from his bad consulting.

They argue the dental expense was a legitimate campaign expense because it was necessary to repair a cracked tooth prior to a campaign photo shoot. Such an expense, the campaign argues, is on par with having hair or makeup done – something considered widely accepted.

But Janovsky has a different story. First, he says he was not fired. Instead he says he quit over Wheeler-Brown’s “unprofessional handling of her campaign.”

Janovsky got word of the email Friday night and was not happy about the allegations raised against him.

“When a candidate and a campaign focuses on covering up their lies, the voters suffer,” he said. “Facts are facts. Lisa was no longer represented by me after the beginning of March.”

Janovsky argues the inaccurate campaign finance reports were filed long after he was removed from financial documents including banks and from city documents.

How, Janovsky ponders, could he be held accountable for reporting errors that occurred after he left the campaign?

Janovsky claims Wheeler-Brown created and filed her own report and is now lying about those reports.

His claims are largely speculative, but the errors are well documented.

Wheeler-Brown supporters argue the news is petty and simply a matter of a disgruntled former consultant making attacks on a candidate he formerly served.

The email asks supporters to focus on the issues.

“The other side is going to try and focus on this for the rest of the campaign because they know our positive message is resonating with voters all over St. Petersburg,” the email reads. “They know that if we focus on the issues that effect (sic) our friends and neighbors, we’ll win in November.”

Wheeler-Brown faces Will Newton on November 3 for the District 7 City Council seat currently held by Wengay Newton.

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 Patch.com 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 janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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