TAMPA — Jennifer Faliero said she made a "big error" last month when she filed her financial disclosure form to run for a third term on the Hillsborough County School Board.
On that form, she declared her net worth to be $51,400, with assets of one car, furniture and electronics, $1,400 in the bank, and clothes. She listed no liabilities.
On Tuesday, in response to a query by the St. Petersburg Times, Faliero said she had made a mistake and would immediately file an amended report.
Her error? She overlooked more than $53,000 in credit card debt, including a court judgment against her in May for $35,924 owed to the Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union.
"I just didn't know that I had to report it," Faliero said. "I'm not trying to hide anything."
Faliero told the Times this week that credit card debt didn't need to be included in the "liabilities" column on the state financial disclosure form.
That's true, state Ethics Commission spokeswoman Kerrie Stillman said, but all court judgments must be declared as liabilities, and credit card debts must be included in a candidate's statement of net worth.
"If a credit card debt has been reduced to a judgment, then the judgment needs to be listed," she said.
Upon reading the filing instructions more carefully, Faliero said it was clear she made an error.
"I'm amending my report right now," she said.
Penalties for filing a false report could include removal from the ballot or expulsion from office. But Stillman said candidates are typically fined "from a few hundred to several thousand dollars" if the Ethics Commission rules against them after a complaint has been filed.
"I cannot recall us removing someone from the ballot, and I've been here since the 1990s," she said.
Faliero faces stiff competition in her District 4 race in eastern Hillsborough County, with three challengers: former principal Richard Bartels, pharmacist Stacy White and former Air Force officer Kirk Faryniasz.
She said it was a complicated instruction sheet, not politics, that led to her filing error.
"When I was at the Supervisor of Elections Office filling out my disclosure form, while reading all this information over, it's just something I didn't do," Faliero said. "It was just a mistake."
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3400.