Many longtime West Pasco residents are aware of the colorful history of folly and discord at Port Richey City Hall. In recent years, however, the spotlight has been focused next door, as New Port Richey confronted a possible debt-related financial meltdown that caused its city manager to leave town in despair. Now, New Port Richey officials say those problems have become manageable, and as if on cue, things have taken a turn in Port Richey — in the wrong direction. First there was the roadside incident in New Port Richey that led to Port Richey City Manager Tom O’Neill eventually being charged with DUI by the Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney’s Office and being suspended for 30 days by City Council. This week, Port Richey Police Chief Dave Brown, who counts O’Neill among his friends, was on leave in the wake of a 15-1 vote by city police officers in favor of a motion expressing no confidence in Brown’s leadership. The union representing officers forwarded to O’Neill allegations of improper handling of surplus police vehicles and the police impound lot. The city manager has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into the matter. Port Richey Councilman Terrence Rowe said Tuesday night it appears the city is “regressing into the old days” and council is “being led instead of leading.”
Rowe may be right, but it may not matter. Over the decades a large majority of Port Richey residents have shown a high level of tolerance for official controversy of this sort. Don’t be surprised if that turns out to be the case once again.