Times Staff Writer
TAMPA — City Council members on Thursday quickly defended colleague Joseph Caetano when a speaker questioned his ability to serve the public, given his financial difficulties.
Caetano, the council representative for North Tampa, filed in November for Chapter 11 protection for his hair salon under federal bankruptcy laws.
"He should resign immediately," said Richard Formica, who lives in Caetano's district.
Council member Charlie Miranda said Formica must have a personal grudge against Caetano, noting that personal financial difficulties don't make a person unfit to serve as an elected official.
"It's a cheap shot, and I'm going to tell you to your face it's a cheap shot," Miranda said.
Council Chairman Tom Scott said the entire country faces economic difficulties, with auto-makers and financial institutions failing and getting government bailouts.
"No one on this board is being bailed out," he said.
Council member Mary Mulhern said elected officials are just like everyone else, trying to stay afloat in a down time.
"There but for the grace of God go I," she said.
Court documents show Caetano's Bostonian Hair Studio owes creditors $179,116.
Caetano also has been in a legal battle over unpaid bills with Comfort Keepers, a company that provided home health care for his ailing wife.
Caetano moved to Tampa from Boston in 1987 and opened the hair salon. In 2006, he opened a coffee shop that he sold in August.
He was elected for a first term on the council in March 2007.
Caetano earns about $40,000 a year in his part-time job as a City Council member. He frequently speaks out on behalf of policies to help small businesses.
He owns a home in Tampa Palms valued at $583,296, according to the Hillsborough County property appraiser.
Janet Zink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3401.