Is Port Richey a city in such disarray that it needs to be absorbed by Pasco County? Or, is the whole idea, as the city manager contends, a money and power grab by those who want to take over Port Richey's assets?
“It’s just outrageous,” said Port Richey City Manager Vince Lupo.
Lupo clearly has a dog in the hunt. His own job is on the line. But he insists the people of Port Richey are being duped.
“There is no factual reason to disband this community. None whatsoever. No factual reason,” Lupo said.
On Tuesday, Port Richey city leaders presented pages of paperwork to refute allegations of criminal wrongdoing at city hall. That including accusations that Port Richey had violated rules related to the bid process for dredging contracts.
City Attorney James Mathieu said there is not, “one iota of fact, not one iota of evidence. No reasonable suspicion to make a criminal complaint.”
The legislative push to dissolve Port Richey is being led by State Representative Amber Mariano, who also happens to be the daughter of Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano. Jack Mariano represents the very district that Port Richey and all its valuable waterfront assets would fall under.
“It is a legislative end around,” said Mathieu. “The people of New Port Richey have voted this down on numerous occasions.”
When we spoke with Representative Mariano, she denied any insinuations.
Port Richey she said, is a political mess, tainted by criminal corruption. It’s former mayor Dale Massad, has been charged with firing at deputies who raided his home. The former vice mayor was later charged with obstruction of justice stemming from that investigation.
“In a city that has dealt with scandal after scandal, I believe the residents of Port Richey deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent efficiently, legally, and in their best interest,” she said.
Over the past four decades, Port Richey voters have twice rejected a proposal to abolish the city. Many say they like the lower taxes and personalized services that come with having their own utilities, police and fire departments.
Residents of Port Richey also rejected the idea of merging with neighboring New Port Richey in 1975 and again in 1997.
“Well, that’s the problem I have with this,” said Port Richey’s new Mayor, Scott Tremblay. “They circumvented the people's will, and in my opinion, their rights to a certain degree.”
Port Richey was planning to hold a council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to give residents an opportunity to be heard.
The legislative delegation, which will decide whether to recommend the dissolution of the city to the full legislature, meets at 8 a.m. on Oct. 11 at Paso-Hernando State College. Public comment is welcomed there as well.
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