ST. PETE BEACH — Claiming he has fallen behind in his mortgage payments, a bank has sued to foreclose on mayoral candidate Steve McFarlin's home.
McFarlin concedes that he is not up to date on his payments, but said it's part of a strategy so the bank will renegotiate the loan at a lower interest rate. The legal action, he said, is one for foreclosure, but is in actuality a "modification" of the agreement.
"It is in foreclosure status, but I'm not letting this house go anywhere," McFarlin said Monday. McFarlin said he has lived in the house for about 17 years.
McFarlin signed a note in the amount of $379,000 on his home at 6449 Second Palm Point on June 4, 2007, according to a copy of the note, which is attached to the lawsuit. The note required him to pay 6.875 percent annual interest. His monthly payments were about $2,490 a month.
McFarlin said that, about a year and a half ago, he wanted to renegotiate the note to drop the interest rate to about 4 percent. Reducing the interest rate that much would save him about $160,000 over the 30-year term of the note.
"I felt it was worth pursuing," McFarlin said.
But the bank felt differently. Because McFarlin was current on his payments, the bank refused to negotiate, he said. So, McFarlin said, he let the payments lapse. The next thing he knew, he was being sued. One of his defenses to the suit is the bank's refusal to discuss a loan modification until he stopped making payments. The case is scheduled for mediation this month.
"I wish it didn't show," McFarlin said. "I didn't know I'd be running for mayor" when the situation began.
Records with the Pinellas County Clerk of Court also show that McFarlin has unpaid child support dating from February 2007. County records show a judgment/certificate of delinquency for about $2,894 was filed then. Records indicate most has been paid, but there is an outstanding balance of $708. If McFarlin were to pay that off immediately, he would have to pay that amount, plus about $1,200 in interest and a bit more in court or clerk's fees.
McFarlin said he did not know of the outstanding amount until a reporter told him of it. McFarlin said he was in court last year concerning a modification of the amount of support because two of his three children are in their 20s, but no one ever mentioned the 2007 delinquency.
In a written statement to the St. Petersburg Times, he said:
"I believe the information concerning the judgment is basically outdated and some sort of clerical shortfall. With over a year of litigation and research put forth by two separate attorneys I feel any financial issues were resolved as of the last settlement.
"I have always taken care of my children in every way possible to this very day. I realize I have now entered the political arena and 'all's fair,' but I hope that after reviewing the records you'll see that I have always been an excellent provider to my children in every respect and to not allow one four-year-old entry to infer the opposite. If anyone, as in my former wife or her attorney, felt that I owed a past balance, I would be the first to be notified of it and I'm told that the state would have taken action via my driver's license.
"Please keep in mind that since this notice in 2007, I have paid in well over $100,000 and would have no reason to avoid a $2,800 balance."
McFarlin, 54, came in first in a field of four in the March 8 election with about 33.1 percent of the vote. He is facing an April 19 runoff against incumbent Mayor Mike Finnerty, 63, who squeaked in second in the March race with about 25.9 percent of the vote.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8450.