MANATEE — Thousands of voters in Manatee received a flier over the weekend bashing school board candidate Julie Aranibar, a dirty tactic courtesy of her challenger, she says.
The flier, endorsed by her opponent Jane Pfeilsticker, calls Aranibar a tax cheat and accuses her of failing to manage her finances. It states she waited until she “got caught” on Aug. 30 to pay off a $100,000 IRS tax lien and that she has a foreclosure and a failed business.
“After over two years, Julie decided to pay up! What a convenient time to ‘Make Every Dollar Count,’ ” the flier reads.
Aranibar, who denounces the allegations, said she has been targeted by Pfeilsticker with a smear campaign to undermine her reputation and that of her family in the weeks before Election Day.
Never miss a local story.
Aranibar, 51, and incumbent Pfeilsticker, 54, are vying for the District 3 seat in a run-off from the Aug. 24 primary.
Paid for by Pfeilsticker’s campaign, the flier includes a copy of the tax lien, which includes her husband Richard’s name on it.
“It’s unfortunate that a candidate can do these things and then receive an endorsement with the word ‘esteemed’ in it, because the actions that have happened this week are far from that,” said Aranibar, who does pension administration and consulting for physicians. “In this case, she relied on an innuendo. She made an assumption.”
But Pfeilsticker contended she checked the facts and that the flier was simply a message of lack of prioritization and fiscal irresponsibility.
“She poured $22,000 in to her campaign at a time she owed the IRS money,” Pfeilsticker said, backing up the mailers she said were targeted — sent to people most appropriate to send it to. “I don’t know many people who have had problems with the IRS, but the few whom I know who owed the IRS money, they gave them plenty of time to pay them back without placing a lien, a last action of resort on the part of the IRS.”
Court records do show a judge issued a $3.14 million foreclosure judgment against Aranibar and a business partner in 2009. Aranibar said she resigned from the partnership in 2008.
But court documents and checks provided to the Bradenton Herald show Aranibar started paying off her lien before August. They include one made out on Jan. 30 for $75,000 to the U.S. Treasury. Court records show the lien was released on Oct. 6.
Aranibar contended the clerk’s website would never publicly post her checks for security reasons.
“We had a year to pay it and paid it off early,” Aranibar said of the lien that came after an audit. “We hired a new accountant in 2007, and got flagged in 2007 along with some of his other clients. The IRS verified that there were no irregularities with our taxes prior to the new accountant and we set up a payment plan for the balance owed. We paid.
“Before you go smear someone who has over a decade of support to the community you could have at least checked the facts.”
But Pfeilsticker fought back Wednesday, saying when she checked her facts through the Manatee County Clerk of Court and Comptrollers website in August, the lien was active.
As far as Aranibar’s husband’s name being on the mailer, Pfeilsticker said that’s no secret.
“That is a public document that is available for anyone to look at on the web. My point was to alert the public of her financial difficulties,” Pfeilsticker said.
Aranibar said she does not plan to retaliate against her opponent, who works as a biology professor at State College of Florida. That’s because earlier this year during a class for candidates at the University of South Florida, she pledged not to engage in smear campaigns.
“I want the record to reflect that I have upheld my pledge, even under extreme attack,” she said.
But Pfeilsticker disagreed, saying Aranibar has spread lies about her under circumstances that left her no option for recourse.
“Where I was not present and could not respond,” Pfeilsticker said. “She has done it at events, verbally, primarily at Republican events which I cannot attend.”
One included that she was going to be given a high-paying job at SCF’s new collegiate school as payment for approving the charter school, an allegation Pfeilsticker called “completely untrue.”
In addition, Pfeilsticker claimed her opponent also told several people that she was involved in having the college completely take over Manatee Technical Institute.
“That is completely ludicrous,” she said. “Each of those statements were very damaging.”
Aranibar denounced those allegations.
The general election is Nov. 2.