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Nancy Smith

Really? Carole Crist, Whose Husband Wants to Be Governor, Owes Florida Money?

June 28, 2014 - 6:00pm

Who knows what lurks under the Carole Crist-n-Oumano-then-Rome name? Certainly when you find one holy-cowism, you have to wonder how many more there are.

And find one, the media have.

Which of the media can we thank for this find, you ask? The resources-rich Tampa Bay Times -- hometown paper for Charlie Crist? The Times' partner, maybe -- The Miami Herald? The Orlando Sentinel? Possibly the Jacksonville Times-Union?

Nope. None of the above.

It took Jose Lambiet's Gossip Extra, "South Florida's Online Tabloid," to reveal that millionaire Carole Crist owes the Florida Department of Revenue $352.61, including principal and penalties, on an unpaid re-employment tax from July 1, 2012, through Sept. 1, 2013. (Check out the Pinellas County Public Records, book 18342, page 283, or see a copy in the attachments at the end of this story.)

Certainly $352.61 is small potatoes. A drop in the bucket. But it doesn't strike me as meaningless. Holy cow.

Carole Crist was the first lady of Florida for two years. She aspires to be first lady again.

Shehas the money, Heaven knows. She was a New York socialite until her marriage to Todd Rome started to crumble. She then moved to exclusive Fisher Island south of Miami, accessible only by boat, helicopter or ferry, and according to the 2000 census, its 1,400 residents had the highest per capita income in the United States. Carole was living in her 3,690-square-foot, $4.1-million condo when she and Charlie married.

So, if it's not money, what is her problem?

I'm going to rule out poor money management. Carole graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University with a degree in accounting.

So, why would the wife of a former governor, a man who desperately wants to be governor again, let herself owe money to the state of Florida?

Why isn't she concerned with the message that sends to Floridians struggling to stay lawfully above water?

The Crist campaign brushes it off as a matter of unfortunate timing.

A campaign source told Gossip Extra that just as Carole was supposed to pay the mandatory business tax on employees for her use of a personal assistant, along came Hurricane Sandy.

This is an error due to a late filing by Mrs. Crists New York accountant during Hurricane Sandy, the campaign source told Lambiet. The accountant is no longer handling Mrs. Crists returns but the error is understandable under the circumstances.

Nice argument. Except for one tiny hiccup: Carole's failure to pay re-employment tax has happened before.

In fact, in 2008, there were two similar tax liens for a total of $1,860 filed against her in Miami-Dade County (see lien No. 1000000219673 in county public records). They went unpaid all the years she and Charlie occupied the governor's mansion and didn't get paid until 2011.

I can only come to one conclusion. It's simple, really: Carole Crist was careless because she could be. Because no one is watching. And because she doesn't see the connection between who she is and what the people of Florida might expect of her.

I realize it's Charlie, not Carole, who is running for office. Yet I consider her actions, absent a better excuse than Hurricane Sandy, a huge lack of respect for the honor given her and the public trust generally.

Try to imagine if the subject of this story were Ann Scott instead of Carole Crist. Imagine the frenzy it would create in liberal-leaning mainstreamers at the Times, Herald and Sentinel. You can hear them now, can't you,calling in the midwives, pushing for dear life, anything to work that story out of the birth canal.

But now watch.

They've been beaten by a South Florida tabloid, of all things. Watch how fast they pooh-pooh or ignore this story.

Charlie Crist told reporters at a Democratic fundraiser in Hollywood Saturday night he has no intention of asking Carole to turn over her tax returns.His call, to be sure.

Trouble is, the more the Crists balk -- the more they avoid transparency in this issue -- the more red flags they raise and the larger the molehill grows.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.

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