Tom McCarthy, Tacoma City Council candidate, responds to critics

Tom McCarthy
Tom McCarthy Courtesy

Tacoma City Council candidate Tom McCarthy is responding to critics’ concerns about the time he spent on the board of the Hilltop Action Coalition.

McCarthy previously refused to answer The News Tribune’s questions about why he failed to pay the coalition’s phone bill and to issue a new employee’s paycheck. But following the publication of a story Tuesday detailing the concerns, he said he wanted to talk.

As the treasurer for HAC in 2013, McCarthy had a debit card and a checkbook to pay the nonprofit’s bills, including the cellphone bill from Boost Mobile.

There was just one problem, according to McCarthy: Boost didn’t accept payments from debit cards.

“The only way I could pay them off is if I showed up in person and paid cash,” he said. McCarthy said Boost, a “fly-by-night company,” also would not accept a check from the HAC account. HAC did not have a credit card.

“I made every effort to set that up (payments) and it didn’t work,” he said.

Michelle Franklin-Wilson, who was on the HAC board at around the same time as McCarthy, said she had to pay the cellphone bill with her own credit card to restore service to the HAC phone for two months.

A spokeswoman for Sprint, which owns Boost Mobile, said the company has long accepted many debit cards as a form of payment.

“Boost Mobile accepts debit cards that have the Visa or MasterCard logo on them, and we’ve been doing that since as early as 2008,” Roni Singleton wrote.

McCarthy could not recall what logo the debit card had two years ago.

Regarding the employee paycheck issue, McCarthy says it was a simple oversight at an agency that hadn’t established a payroll process. He said that he asked for one and was told a process was not needed.

I need somebody to tell me when to pay, how to pay, what to pay, and I never was until after I received a panicked call that we needed to pay the coordinator.

Tom McCarthy, Tacoma City Council candidate

“I need somebody to tell me when to pay, how to pay, what to pay,” he said. “I never was until after I received a panicked call that we needed to pay the coordinator.”

Lisa Lawrence, who was HAC’s part-time community coordinator then, said McCarthy was out of town for 10 days and took the checkbook with him when she was supposed to receive her first paycheck.

“The then-board president and his wife were kind enough to write me a personal check so I could pay my mortgage,” Lawrence said.

McCarthy said it was the first time HAC had an employee “certainly since I had been on the board. It was something that got resolved in a couple of days.”

McCarthy said he resigned his post as treasurer, while remaining on the HAC board, then took a leave of absence to apply for graduate programs. Emails provided by McCarthy from that time bear this out.

At around that time, the Executive Board for HAC told him he needed to apologize for complaints the board was receiving about his conduct or would be asked to leave, according to meeting minutes. The board later moved to remove him, but he resigned before that could happen.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542