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Commission candidate downplays bankruptcy

By Mike Salinero
Published: September 26, 2012 Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:23 PM
She has been the CEO of a successful software consulting company and founded a nonprofit organization that helps foster kids.But alongside those high points on the resume of Hillsborough County Commission candidate Margaret Iuculano, there are some black marks — bankruptcy and tax liens.Iuculano, a Republican, is challenging incumbent Democratic Commissioner Kevin Beckner for the District 6 countywide seat. In campaign literature, she touts her business acumen and fiscal conservatism.Still, Iuculano and her husband, Anthony, filed for bankruptcy in 2008 when a real estate deal went bad. Two years later, the bankruptcy was discharged, leaving creditors with nearly $2 million in unpaid claims."You have no control over real estate," Iuculano said. "I don't think that takes away from any of my business successes."Iuculano denied any knowledge of the outstanding tax liens lodged by the Florida Department of Revenue against her former family business, Iuculano Family Enterprises. The business was dissolved in 2009.The revenue department said the two tax liens — one for $12,737 filed in February 2010, the other for $4,284 filed in May 2007 — have not been paid. Iuculano said she doesn't think the agency's information is accurate."We sold that biz six years ago and we've not received one notice," she said. "We had a top attorney and that is a clean, closed deal. Every bill was paid, every 'i' was dotted and every 't' crossed."Beckner, a certified financial planner, seized on his opponent's bankruptcy and tax liens, commenting that they were proof that Iuculano is a "disaster with money — her own and others.""We can't afford to hand the budget over to someone with a history of bankruptcy and tax warrants being issued on her," he said in an e-mail.Iuculano started a software consulting and training company called TechSherpas in 2001, and oversaw the company's million-dollar payroll as chief executive officer. Iuculano said she was named Small Businesswoman of the Year twice by the Small Business Administration's South Florida District Office. She sold the company in 2007.In 2008, the Iuculanos owned a real estate holding company, LAX Capital, which went bust with the housing bubble. The company owned a building at 1327 E. Seventh Ave. in Ybor City, which was financed through Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street investment bank whose failure helped trigger the financial crisis that year.Iuculano said she and her husband bought the building to house their business and rented out space to tenants."After we sold the company, the real estate market plummeted. We got caught," Iuculano said. "We had a couple of tenants in there; they were no longer able to pay the rent. They went down when the real estate market went down — so did our lease. So it wasn't enough to keep up the building."When they filed for bankruptcy, the Iuculanos had $295,175 worth of assets and $2.79 million in liabilities. Among the creditors was Lehman Brothers with a $1.65 million claim, and Dean and Diane James of Tampa, who filed a claim for a business loan of $300,000.When the bankruptcy became final in September 2010, $1.9 million in claims were discharged without payment, according to court documents.Since then, Iuculano has concentrated on her nonprofit organization, Angels for Foster Kids, which aims to improve conditions for abused and neglected foster children though education, improved living conditions and financial help.Iuculano said in July that her experience with the nonprofit makes her a good choice for county commissioner."It's important to have someone like myself there because 20 percent of our budget is on family services," she said.