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Lisa Wheeler-Brown used campaign funding for dental procedure; claimed payment for office that didn’t exist

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council candidate Lisa Wheeler-Brown used campaign funding to undergo dental work.

An amended campaign treasurer’s report filed with the city clerk Friday shows an added $500 expense to the company Modern Day Smiles for a “photo shoot expense.” Modern Day Smiles is a dental practice that offers cosmetic procedures.

Meagan Salisbury, Wheeler-Brown’s campaign consultant, verified that the money was used for a dental procedure.

“Lisa cracked her tooth, and had a number of events and photo opportunities coming up immediately,” Salisbury said. “This was meant to fix her tooth to ensure that she looked professional in her appearances and photos. We would have lost money and support without this expense.”

LWB smiles report

Salisbury compared it to using campaign funding for professional hair or makeup done for a professional photo shoot. Salisbury was not working for Wheeler-Brown’s campaign during the time of the dental procedure. She did not come on to the campaign until April.

The difference is, while hair and makeup would be a valid expense for a photo shoot for campaign materials, those services are temporary. Fixing a cracked tooth is a medical expense and one that is permanent barring re-injury.

An analysis of photos of Wheeler-Brown on her Facebook page shows several in which a gold tooth is visible. However, photos used on official campaign materials don’t show a gold tooth.

City Clerk Chandrahasa Srinivasa was out of the office at the time the amended treasurer’s report was filed. His office said he would answer questions about the issue when he returns to the office Monday.

Based on state election laws, a formal complaint on the state’s election commission’s website can be filed to prompt an investigation into whether or not the expenditure constitutes a campaign finance violation.

Also at issue is the timing of the amended report. According to the amended report, the dental procedure was carried out on February 26. The expense had been filed as a payment to Advantage Village Academy for “office space rental” until the change was filed at City Hall Friday.

Salisbury said the mistake was a clerical oversight.

“When we were preparing the M1 report due today, we noticed the minor clerical error, and the amendment was filed to fix that,” Salisbury said. “This didn’t impact any of the total raised or spent by the campaign.”

Former supporters from the campaign told SaintPetersblog there wasn’t a campaign office. There was no answer at Advantage Village Academy to verify whether Wheeler-Brown had used the space for anything related to her campaign.

However, campaign finance documents show that there wasn’t a single payment made to the youth services non-profit at any time other than the incorrect filing in February.

Wheeler-Brown faces Will Newton in the November 3 race for St. Pete City Council, District 7.

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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