PORT RICHEY — The sun is either shining over Port Richey or hidden behind a cloud of controversy, according to contrasting visions of city council membersoffered Tuesday night. Councilman Steve O’Neill recalled he joined council 10 years ago during a movement to disband the city. He’s seen a lot of positives since then as he served through four city managers. Rowe cited “disappointing things last week,” a reference to the 15-1 vote of no confidence by police officers against Police Chief Dave Brown. “This action does not occur often and is taken very seriously,” Jim Diamond III, director of operations for West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, the union to which Port Richey officers belong, wrote in an April 17 letter to O’Neill. “The officers’ inability to trust their leadership … is extremely demoralizing and may have a negative effect on the overall performance of the police department.”
FDLE officials have not responded yet to O’Neill’s request, the city manager said Tuesday night. In the meantime, Brown took personal leave this week and traveled to North Carolina, O’Neill said before the council meeting. Brown could not be reached for comment. Sgt. Michael Koch substituted for Brown at Tuesday’s meeting. Residents weighed in about the police department situation and other grievances during public comments. “It’s your job to hire the right people to run this city,” Matthew Todd said to Tom O’Neill. “It’s going to be swept under the rug,” he said about any problems at the police department. “We pray for Pasco,” the Rev. Leonard Lord pastor of Light of the World Tabernacle, said. “We’re rooting for you.” “When are we going to get our city in order?” former Mayor Mark Abbott asked. “I watched a lot of changes, good and bad” in Port Richey, former City Councilman Jim Priest said. The police department in the past did not have proper gear, he said. “Shame on you, shame on all of you,” said Kathy Todd, who lost the recent mayoral election to the incumbent, Eloise Taylor. Rowe, however, was miffed that for a second time his request to place an item on a city council agenda was not honored. He said he was told he had to go through channels. “I refuse to be a puppet,” Rowe remarked. He pointed out only one item appeared on the Tuesday night agenda besides consent items. “This council is being led instead of leading,” Rowe said.