PORT RICHEY — The city has launched a legal counteroffensive against state Rep. Amber Mariano, who has suggested dissolving the city’s municipal charter through legislative action.
In a statement released late Friday afternoon, City Manager Vincent Lupo said the city has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Mariano, R-New Port Richey, for filing a false report to a law enforcement authority.
In the statement, Lupo said Mariano filed a criminal complaint against the city with the FDLE in late May.
Mariano, in a statement emailed Friday evening in response to a request for comment, called the city's criminal complaint against her "absolute nonsense" that reflects badly on city officials.
Mariano added she is confident the city's complaint will be quickly dismissed.
The actions that led to the arrests of former Mayor Dale Massad and former Councilman Terrence Rowe and their suspension from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis “did not involve the city of Port Richey but rather private behavior outside the purview of their legislative duties,” the statement from Lupo said.
In addition to its complaint against Mariano to the FDLE, the city has filed a public records request with Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles and members of the county staff. Mariano has said she filed her criminal complaint with the FDLE after meeting with Biles, the city’s statement said.
“The city of Port has no information that the county provided any information of criminal activity to Rep. Amber Mariano,” the statement from Lupo said. “We are awaiting their response.”
In a letter to the FDLE office in Tampa that the city released Friday, Lupo said that Mariano had filed her complaint with the state law enforcement agency on May 28. It was regarding the city’s refinancing of a bond issue with money from the Port Richey Community Redevelopment Agency.
The refinancing was handled in a legal manner through the Florida League Cities by City Attorney James Mathieu, who at the time was the acting city manager, according to Lupo. The refinancing, Lupo said, has saved the city over $300,000 in bond debt payments.
In the letter to the FDLE, Lupo said Mariano had been in contact with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office and the Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney’s Office as part of a “fishing expedition” in order to file a criminal complaint against the city “based on nothing.”
In her response, Mariano said the Port Richey criminal complaint against her is "just another example of the failed leadership and poor judgment of city officials."
She added: "This stunt is clearly retaliation for legislation I intend to file that the city does not like. I am absolutely confident that this politically motivated, unfounded complaint will be dismissed quickly."
Mariano has said she will present her bill to dissolve the Port Richey charter to the Pasco County legislative delegation at its annual meeting, to be held Oct. 11 at the Pasco-Hernando State College West Campus. Mariano has said state Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Palm Harbor, plans to file a companion bill in the Senate.