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Tampa City Council candidate apologizes for leveling false claim against opponent



Tampa City Council candidate Chris Hart apologized Thursday to his opponent, Yvonne Yolie Capin, for falsely claiming in a debate last week that she cheated customers of her former bridal shop.

Durng a segment in which the candidates posed questions to one another, Hart challenged Capin on a history of alleged dishonesty, including a claim that years ago she closed a bridal shop and stiffed brides on their deposits.

“If you’ve not followed your word in the past, how do we expect you to keep your word in the future?” he asked.

Capin said she sold the bridal shop, and that the claim was “absolutely not true.”

On Wednesday, after trying to verify the claim for two days, Hart’s campaign admitted it did not have any evidence to support it.

“Obviously, I had inaccurate information on that and for that I’ll apologize,” Hart said Wednesday.

He said a campaign volunteer had told him the story, which sparked his memory about a tale years ago of a local bridal shop cheating its customers. He said he assumed the volunteer’s story was accurate when his lawyers later showed him documents that Capin once owned a bridal shop and was involved in a judgment in small-claims court. Those documents show that in 1998, the court ordered Capin to pay a collection agency $775.70 in connection with her shop, Carli’s Bridal Consignment, Inc.

Capin said she leased a credit card system that did not work properly and returned it. The company then sued her and won.

Hart, a former Hillsborough County Commissioner, and Capin, who was appointed to the District 4 South Tampa City Council seat last year, are in a run-off election to fill the District 3 citywide Council seat. Voters will decide on March 22.

Last week, during Capin’s response to the question in the televised debate, Hart interjected that she had twice been sued successfully for not paying sales taxes. That claim was also inaccurate, she said.

Documents show that the state placed tax liens on her jewelry business in 1987 and 1988 for not paying a total of $6,500 in taxes. Other state records show she satisfied the liens about 21 months later.

On Wednesday, Capin posted on her campaign website letters from her accountant and attorney stating that the tax liens were erroneous. She had closed her jewelry business in late 1987, and the state mistakenly issued the liens months later, they said. When Capin told state oficials they had requested taxes from a closed business, the state said it could only erase the liens by filing that she had satisfied them, according to her accountant and lawyer.

In an e-mail, Capin said, “My reaction to Mr. Hart is that he is deceptive , reckless and irresponsible with the truth. He knew--- or should have known---that his statements were complete falsehoods.”

-- Jack Nicas, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Thursday, March 10, 2011 1:42pm]


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