CLEARWATER — On Tuesday night, City Council candidate Herb Quintero was at City Hall, joining other candidates for a televised election forum.
Afterward, he went home to Island Estates. Then came a knock at the door. Sheriff's deputies were there to arrest him on a felony bad check charge.
Quintero, who was briefly booked into the Pinellas County Jail at 1 a.m. Wednesday and released on $2,500 bail, says the whole thing is a mistake.
"My attorney is trying to find out what happened. This had been worked out, and I have documentation to prove it," he said.
"This caught me completely by surprise. I wasn't ever notified that this was out there. Hopefully in the next couple of days, those charges will be dropped and my name will be cleared again."
Quintero, 41, came to the public's attention last year when he battled the city over a fish mural on a wall of his tackle shop, the Complete Angler. Officials fined him and called the mural a code violation, but Quintero won in court.
Now he's running for City Council Seat 4, competing against candidates Wayne Carothers, Bill Jonson and Joe Paige.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office arrested him on a warrant for a felony charge of obtaining property in return for a worthless check.
Quintero, who is also a construction contractor, is accused of writing a bad check to a subcontractor. He says he gave the subcontractor a postdated check and asked him not to cash it until money became available from a construction job to cover it.
"It was a misunderstanding on what was supposed to have been done with the check. It wasn't supposed to have been cashed for a certain period of time," Quintero said.
Quintero's tackle shop in Clearwater recently closed, and he has been getting back into air-conditioning and construction work to pay the bills.
According to records on file with the Pinellas County Clerk of Court, the check was written from Quintero's company, Coast to Coast Construction, in January 2009. The subcontractor later tried to cash it at a Regions Bank, but there weren't sufficient funds to cover it, according to an affidavit filed in October 2009.
"After I found out about it, I made arrangements to pay that obligation," Quintero said.
He said he's been making payments to the subcontractor since they reached an agreement in December.
"This completely caught me off guard," he said of his arrest.
Little information was available about the case Wednesday.
The Sheriff's Office said its deputies merely picked up Quintero on a warrant, but it's not a Sheriff's Office case.
Documents from the Clerk of Court's Office show that a judge signed a warrant for Quintero's arrest on Friday.
The assistant state attorney who is listed in that paperwork, Mark McGarry, said he handles hundreds of bad check cases and can't comment on a particular one, but added that potential defendants are typically notified ahead of time by certified letter.
Quintero said he was blindsided by the arrest, and the timing is tough — less than two weeks before the election. But he also took responsibility.
"It is my fault for not following up. After the agreement was made between me and the other party, I never followed up to make sure that the state attorney was aware of it," he said.
"Everything was taken care of, everybody was happy. I didn't see why it would escalate any further. I honestly didn't think it was a big deal."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4160.