TAMPA — City Council Speaker Joseph Citro had three dreams he didn’t want to give up when he was in financial trouble. living on Bayshore Boulevard, owning his own business, and running for political office.
The cost of these dreams was the recovery of approximately $20,000 in outstanding credit card debt caused by Bank of America and, ultimately, congressional payroll garnishment.
The 2019 lawsuit has been public since just before the fourth city council election, but has recently come to light as the re-election campaign heats up.
He said his condo at 4015 Bayshore Blvd had three separate leaks. In 2015, we had to do a major remodel of our 700 square foot unit to remove mold and water damage. It took several years for the approximately $45,000 insurance payout. He did not return to the unit until late 2018 or 2019.
During that time, he racked up credit card debt at Bank of America to pay his $1,000 a month rent house and maintain Studio B, his midtown hair salon.
“Things got tighter,” Citro said. “I had to start living off credit cards.”
His financial difficulties did not deter him from launching his fourth candidacy for city council in late 2017. A month before he was elected, Bank of America filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough County Circuit Court to recover his debts, alleging he failed to pay.
Since December 2021, his council salary has been withheld. City records show that as of December 30, he had $11,325 deducted from his city council salary. On his Dec. 30 paycheck, he had $408 seized, including a $2 processing fee.
Citro said he has about $5,000 left to pay off.
Citro said he made a conscious choice not to pay off his credit card debt or declare bankruptcy. To do so, he said, would jeopardize his business, condominium repairs, and his political ambitions.
The coronavirus pandemic, which forced him to close his salon for two months, exacerbated his predicament. said.
“I could walk away and go bankrupt. That’s not me,” Citro said in an interview on Tuesday.
Citro said it spent “several grands” on its 2019 campaign and has not apologized for it. According to his campaign finance records, he donated his $1,000 to the campaign.
“I had to follow my dream,” he said.
His financial woes surfaced earlier this week in a Creative Loafing article.
Citro said he doesn’t think the news will jeopardize his chances of a second term in a citywide district-one seat. So far he has faced three of his challengers: Sonja Brookins, Alan Clendenin and Chase Harrison.
“The public has seen my record. They know who I am. They know how hard it has been for me to get here. I will continue to work hard for that,” he said.
Citro, 64, said he takes responsibility for his decisions.
“I don’t blame anyone for anything,” he said. “This was bad luck after bad luck. It was just a chain of events.”