Last year, state Rep. Darryl Rouson reported nearly $280,000 in income. Yet the St. Petersburg lawyer also has considerable debts — among them, the loan on a Chicago house that has been in foreclosure.
Rouson said he bought the house in 2005 so his daughter and stepdaughter would have a place to live while they were working on their master's degrees at Chicago's Roosevelt University. Though the women were supposed to make the payments after they graduated, both moved out and left him with a house worth far less than the $138,000 he now owes on it, Rouson said.
"I tried to do good for my daughters. I could not afford to carry a Chicago mortgage, but I did the best I could and tried to hold on until they could take it over themselves. They moved out, and I got stuck. The market dropped, and I got stuck again."
Rouson said he wants to "just get rid of the debt" and plans to sell the 1,000-square-foot, split-level home. The Cook County Assessor's Office values it at $115,860 — nearly $23,000 less than the amount (including late fees) that is now owed.
In 2005, Rouson and his stepdaughter, Sakeisha Winston, co-signed a $118,080 loan for the house in the Morgan Park area of South Chicago. Winston's mother was Rouson's second wife, who died of cancer in 1997.
"I put about $19,000 down and maybe another $6,000, $7,000 fixing it up," he said. "The idea was to live in it until such time as she could go to work and buy it."
Rouson said his daughter Danielle moved into the house when she too decided to attend Roosevelt.
Rouson and Winston refinanced for $126,000 in April 2006. In June 2008, the lender filed a foreclosure complaint against Winston, Rouson and his wife, Angela.
Two months later, the foreclosure was dismissed and "the bank sent me some paperwork," Rouson said. "I filled out the paperwork, we changed the payment plan and, yes, there were some late fees."
Although his daughter and stepdaughter graduated, they had a falling out and left the house a month before they were supposed to take over the payments, Rouson said. Located in what he called a "not very good neighborhood," the house sat vacant and was twice broken into before Rouson rented it out.
The tenant "has paid me maybe $700 total in the entire eight months he's been in the place and I've been paying all the utilities," Rouson said. "I just talked to him two weeks ago and said, 'You got to go.' I just can't continue to carry an undervalued house in Chicago and meet all my obligations here in St. Petersburg."
Rouson said he "recently" made a payment but would not say if loan again has gone into default.
Rouson's daughter and stepdaughter could not be reached for comment.
The 56-year-old Rouson, whose district includes parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee counties, easily won his Democratic primary Tuesday and is almost assured of another term. He has a tangled financial history, stemming in part from his years as an admitted cocaine addict.
From 1985 to 1997, Rouson ran up more than $300,000 in debts to the IRS, which put a lien on his St. Petersburg home. On his attorney's advice, he stopped making payments in 2002 so the lenders would foreclose, thereby freeing him from the IRS lien.
Rouson also declared a Chapter 7 bankruptcy that year. While he was still in bankruptcy, he got a $263,150 construction loan from Cornerstone Community Bank to build a home in St. Petersburg. Rouson later refinanced with a $564,000 Cornerstone loan.
On a financial disclosure statement filed in July with the Florida Ethics Commission, Rouson said he still owes $500,000 to Cornerstone. Other debts include the Chicago loan, $25,000 owed to BB&T and $22,000 owed to First State Bank in St. Petersburg.
Rouson's $277,967 income last year included $200,000 from Morgan & Morgan in Tampa, the law firm where he handles personal injury and accident cases. He also received $25,000 from his own law firm and $29,967 in legislative salary.
Among Rouson's assets are his St. Petersburg house — now valued at $378,000 by the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office — and $35,000 worth of stock in EQ Labs. He is vice president of legal affairs for the Las Vegas-based company, which makes an energy drink product.
As of Dec. 31, Rouson listed his net worth as $11,000.
Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.