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.”
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.