TARPON SPRINGS — A candidate for Tarpon Springs City Commission says voters can trust her to make decisions about how to spend their tax dollars, even though she has struggled to manage her own financial affairs.
Crissy Cladakis, 38, recently declared bankruptcy and listed no personal assets on her financial disclosure form.
Cladakis is running for Seat 1 on the commission, which is being vacated by Robin Saenger due to term limits. Cladakis faces Townsend Tarapani in the March 8 election.
Cladakis contends her financial woes stemmed from a fight with her family, not from an inability to manage money. In 2008, she sued her parents, Bill and Harriet Cladakis, her sister, Anna Cladakis, and her brother, Manny Cladakis. In the long-running lawsuit, Crissy Cladakis alleged, among other things, that she was owed $95,000 for her management services and that her father collected and kept rents that were collected on properties they owned together.
Cladakis won't discuss the lawsuit, saying that she and her family have resolved the matter.
"My family and I have reconciled and we have a better relationship now," Cladakis said. "I have a lot of respect for them and they have a lot for me. After three years of not seeing each other, I missed them."
Cladakis' mother echoed those thoughts.
"It's personal and it's over," Harriet Cladakis said. "We are very close and we support her."
In court documents, Crissy Cladakis said she managed the Bridge Lounge, a Tarpon Springs bar her family has owned since 2003, as well as managing other family-owned real estate holdings, but was never paid a salary. She claimed her parents owed her thousands of dollars and that they also should have paid off the mortgage on a home she owned at the time at 598 Bayshore Drive.
"It was a very venomous family dispute," said Robert Eckard, the attorney who represented Bill and Harriet Cladakis. "There was a line in the sand drawn when she sued her parents."
A judge dismissed Cladakis' claims against her family on April 15, 2009, and gave her 20 days to file an amended complaint, which she did on May 8, 2009. But on Nov. 23, 2009, Cladakis filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit.
Cladakis would not say how she and her family settled the matter but she said the ordeal left her broke.
Before the lawsuit, her parents paid all her expenses and gave her a stipend, she said. Afterward, "all my assets, everything ended," Cladakis said. "I had the falling out and my father shut me off completely. That's when all my financial problems happened. I was living off my credit cards. That was the only way I was living."
When she filed as a candidate for the March 8 election, Cladakis submitted a financial disclosure statement that covered 2009. She reported she had no property, no assets and no liabilities that year.
Last May, Cladakis declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In court documents, she said she had $394,655 in liabilities, much of that a portion of the note at 598 Bayshore Drive, and $18,950 in assets. On Aug. 27, a judge discharged Cladakis' debts, which included several credit cards, a cell phone bill and a gym membership.
"Why should they (voters) not trust me?" Cladakis asked. "I didn't file bankruptcy because I don't know how to balance my budget. I had to file because of issues beyond my control. I don't live beyond my means and I've been able to bounce back. I work three jobs and made enough to loan myself money (for the campaign). Bankruptcy doesn't mean I can't handle money."
According to Pinellas County property records, in December 2005 Cladakis purchased the home at 598 Bayshore Drive with her then-fiance for $618,900. The relationship didn't work out and a quitclaim deed gave her exclusive ownership in April 2006.
When her funds began to dry up, the bank started a foreclosure process on the home. Cladakis found a buyer and sold the waterfront home for $277,000 in August 2009. The remaining debt on the home was wrapped into the bankruptcy filing.
Cladakis, who is a member of the city's Planning and Zoning Board, now rents in Tarpon Springs and works full time as a cashier in the cafeteria at Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital. She works part time at the clothing store Cache at International Plaza in Tampa and she has a court transcription and proofreading business that she operates out of her home.
If elected, Cladakis said she will give up the job at the clothing store but will keep the job at Helen Ellis and the transcription business. The job of Tarpon Springs commissioner is considered part time. It pays $8,000 a year and health benefits.
Cladakis hopes Tarpon voters will focus on her willingness to take on the tough job of commissioner, rather than dwelling on her personal financial history.
"Things happened in my life, but I don't think it's going to deter me from doing a great job for the city of Tarpon Springs," Cladakis said. "It has no bearing on my abilities."
Contact Demorris A. Lee at [email protected] or (727) 445-4174.