PORT RICHEY – The city’s leadership saga surrounding the arrest of former mayor Dale Massad took another troublesome turn Wednesday.
Vice Mayor Terrence Rowe, elevated to acting mayor after Massad’s Feb. 21 arrest, was taken to jail, himself, March 13 on charges related to the former mayor’s case.
According to police reports, Rowe, 64, was arrested at 4:19 p.m., March 13, on three charges: Obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and the unlawful use of a two-way communication device. Each charge carried a $5,000 bond.
Rowe was arrested by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and his case will be handled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Massad’s arrest has him facing attempted murder charges after he fired two shots with a handgun at Pasco County SWAT members who had forcefully entered his home in the early morning hours of Feb. 21. No one was injured during the operation and shooting incident. The former mayor was being investigated by FDLE agents about practicing medicine without a license and insurance fraud.
Rowe took over as acting mayor and was friends with Massad. During Port Richey’s Feb. 26 regular meeting, Rowe was the lone voice on the board to speak about Massad’s legal troubles and dismissal. While saying that he did not “condone nor excuse the alleged actions of the mayor,” Rowe made it clear that he felt law enforcement used excessive force during the operation. “I'd be remiss if I did not say that in my opinion the operation was, to say the very least, heavy-handed and put police officers and our citizens in unnecessary danger.”
He also mentioned his personal friendship with Massad. “Over the years that I've known him, I've known the man,” Rowe said during the Feb. 26 meeting. “He's not a perfect model, nor are any of us, but he had his heart and soul dug into the city and did everything he could to move it forward and I thank him for that.”
The pair of arrests now leaves Port Richey’s five-member city council with just three representatives: Richard Bloom, William Dittmer and Jennie Sorrell.
The city announced this week that it is searching for residents interested in temporarily filling Massad’s vacated council seat. Interested individuals are being asked to address the board and state their qualifications at the March 26 regular meeting. Rowe’s arrest now leaves two seats vacant.
A special mayoral election has been set for June 18.