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Financial woes piling up for Tampa City Council member Caetano

TAMPA — The financial difficulties continue to mount for Tampa City Council member Joseph Caetano.

His investment condo in Highwoods Preserve is scheduled to be sold at the courthouse this month after a final foreclosure judgment.

He hasn't paid property taxes on his $450,000 Tampa Palms home since 2007, with the delinquent bill now totaling $22,486.

And he hasn't complied with an 18-month-old court order to pay $4,688 to a company that cared for his ailing wife for three months in 2007. That matter was turned over to a collection agency on May 26.

Meanwhile, Caetano opened a hair salon five weeks ago in Pasco County to replace the one in New Tampa that went bankrupt last year. Caetano operated the Bostonian Hair Studio for more than 20 years. The adjacent Publix recently took over part of the space.

Caetano expects the next venture, which bears the same name, to fare better. It's about a fourth of the size of his defunct salon, and the rent in the Wesley Chapel strip center is about a fifth as much, he said.

An investor helped him get the new business started under the auspices of a limited liability corporation called the Bostonian Holding Corp., established in 2002, Caetano said. He wouldn't name the investor.

Regarding the unpaid property taxes, Caetano said: "I'm starting to make money in my business and I hope to pay it back that way."

The taxes used to be included in his mortgage payment, but that stopped without him realizing it after he refinanced his home, he said.

Caetano said he also will try to settle with Comfort Keepers, the company that cared for his wife, but said he hasn't paid as a matter of principle.

"He had an obligation to take care of somebody who was sick, and he wasn't doing it the way he was supposed to do it," Caetano said. Bob DiRaimo, owner of Comfort Keepers, said Caetano never complained about the quality of care until payment became an issue.

Caetano said his wife, Nair, is in a nursing home.

He said his financial problems have no bearing on his ability to be a city leader.

"I wasn't the only guy faced with these financial difficulties in Hillsborough County or the City of Tampa. There are thousands of them," he said.

Caetano serves as vice chairman of the City Council Finance Committee but says he doesn't make major decisions about the city's $754 million budget.

"I don't touch the city's finances. I vote on it, yes or no," he said. "The mayor makes those decisions."

Caetano, 76, often argues on behalf of small-business owners on the council. He also wants to rein in solicitors from the city's rights of way, and he cast the only vote in favor of a raise for police officers last year.

He is running for re-election to the District 7 City Council seat that represents New Tampa. The part-time job pays about $40,000 a year.

Two people — Dean Hale and Charles Perkins — are set to run against Caetano in March.

Hale, a 44-year-old real estate agent, declined to comment on Caetano's financial woes.

He said he chose to run for the seat because he believes he's more in touch with regular people than Caetano.

"I'm married with a child going through the public school system, dealing with taxes and traffic in the New Tampa area," he said. "I'm much more grounded as to what's going on versus maybe being above it or outside of it."

DiRaimo, who lives in Caetano's district, said he stands ready to help people working to oust Caetano from office.

"It's not my intention to stump for someone and say that they're a good candidate, but I will be available to provide my assessment of the character of our current City Council member," DiRaimo said. "How is he still in office?"

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Financial woes piling up for Tampa City Council member Caetano 06/09/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 1:21am]

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