Hillsborough County Commission candidate Margaret Iuculano says on her website and campaign literature that the U.S. Small Business Administration gave her its Business Woman of the Year award in 2004 and 2006.
The awards are cited as evidence of Iuculano's business expertise — a reason voters should trust her, not incumbent Commissioner Kevin Beckner, with county tax money.
"Margaret will use her strong business background and advocacy passion to help small businesses and our families in Hillsborough County as commissioner," says a political advertisement by the agency MediaQuire.
That's news to the Small Business Administration, which could find no indication it ever gave an award to Iuculano.
"We checked our records from 2003-2008 and found no record of Margaret Iuculano receiving an award from the SBA," the agency's media director, Emily Cain, wrote in an e-mail this week.
The Small Business Administration is a federal agency that advocates for small businesses and provides them loans and help with federal contracts.
Cain said each of the agency's 62 district offices give out awards, and each award usually is presented by the district office where the business is located. She said she checked the local district office here and national records.
"Our local office definitely has no record and a quick search of our national records shows nothing as well," Cain said in the e-mail.
Cain added that Iuculano might have been nominated for such an award but that the SBA's records for nominations don't go back that far.
Iuculano assured a reporter Thursday she had won the awards from the Small Business Administration. She said the agency makes awards through many different divisions, suggesting Cain had missed something in her check.
Iuculano said she has a wall full of awards but didn't have time Thursday to provide evidence to The Tampa Tribune.
Iuculano did not return phone calls Friday.
Iuculano's business experience has been a recurring theme in the Republican candidate's campaign against Beckner, a Democrat.
In 2001, Iuculano started a software consulting and training company called TechSherpas. She sold the company in 2007, and it still is operating.
She also is founder and executive director of a nonprofit group called Angels for Foster Kids, which seeks to improve the lives of children in foster homes.
On Wednesday, the Tribune reported that Iuculano and her husband, Anthony, had filed for bankruptcy in 2008 because of a bad real estate deal. The bankruptcy left creditors with claims totaling nearly $2 million unpaid.
The Iuculanos also have two state tax liens totaling $17,021 that have not been paid, the Florida Department of Revenue said Tuesday. When asked about the liens, Margaret Iuculano said the state's information was incorrect.
Kevin Cate, a spokesman for Beckner's campaign, called the discrepancies "sad."
"Cleary Mrs. Iuculano believes that she has to make up awards to cover up her history of financial irresponsibility, bankruptcy and unpaid taxes," Cate said.
"Taxpayers deserve an honest fiscal conservative."