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2002: The Year in Review

Like sand through the hourglass, this is 2002

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By C. T. BOWEN, Pasco Times Editor of Editorials

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 29, 2002


It was a year that featured pigs and animal protests, a never-ending melodrama called Port Richey, an old commissioner and an old sheriff trying to re-enter public life, and a decidely anti-Finn stance among New Port Richey City Council members.

To each, we bestow a 2002 Pasco Platitude.

Here then is a monthly timeline of the noteworthy accomplishments:

* * *

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY: In January, a neighbor complained that potbellied pigs belonging to Commissioner Pat Mulieri were rooting around and damaging his Gowers Corner property.

Not my pigs, Mulieri declared a day later.

Despite that declaration, she penned them in.

No sense ticking off the neighbors in an election year.

* * *

DO WE HAVE TO PICK SOMEONE? The February filing period for Port Richey's municipal election brought a ballot featuring Council member Pat Guttman who, according to a clandestine police recording, discussed public business outside the Sunshine Law with the acting mayor; incumbent Joe Menicola, recorded in a profanity-filled diatribe declaring war on the police department after his adult son received a speeding ticket; defrocked physician Dale Massad; Fred Miller, who advocated dissolving the city five years earlier, and incumbent Bill Bennett, who won his seat in 2001 by the luck of a draw after finishing in a dead heat with Massad.

Results showed 715 people came to Port Richey's polling sites to choose among the five candidates for three council seats. Between 18 and 36 percent of the turnout picked one or two of the candidates but declined to vote for three.

Translation? "None of the above" ran a strong campaign.

* * *

THE PIG PEN MANEUVER WORKED: In March, Jeffrey Barnhart ended his candidacy against Mulieri the same day he started it with an interview with Times staff writer Saundra Amrhein. Barnhart said he would push for more recreational space for central Pasco. A few hours later, he called back saying he withdrew because of time constraints.

* * *

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY REDUX: In April, dozens of people, including comedian Elayne Boosler, wrote to the Times or to prosecutors calling for severe punishment for Barry Colbert, accused in a domestic violence case of battering his live-in girlfriend.

But the letters did not support girlfriend Jacki Clever. The authors wanted justice and they contributed more than $3,000 to assist another victim -- Buster, a 10-month old boxer that authorities said also was abused by Colbert.

* * *

WILL THEY BOYCOTT AUGUSTA? Also in April, two days after Tiger Woods won his third Masters title, Peter Altman sought postponement of the June 25 County Commission meeting to avoid a golfing conflict at the Florida Association of Counties meetings.

* * *

OH, YOU MEANT THIS MONTH? On May 8, the New Port Richey City Council designated May as "Civility Month," noting displays of anger, disrespect and personal attacks detract from the open exchange of ideas and fair discussion.

On May 9, Council member Tom Finn called one of his fellow council members a do-nothing and repeated his criticism of the council for passing him over three weeks earlier for deputy mayor.

* * *

EMILY LITELLA AWARD: In June, yours truly, an apparently hard-of-hearing commentary writer (who also doesn't read the horoscope), quoted Mulieri describing herself as a "tortoise," as in slow-moving.

"I said, 'Taurus', " Mulieri rebutted, as in having perseverance as a strong characteristic.

Oh.

To quote a former Saturday Night Live Weekend Update contributor:

"Never mind."

* * *

MR. GALLAGHER WILL SEE YOU NOW: In July, former County Commissioner David "Hap" Clark Jr., 80, announced plans to try to regain a seat on the commission where he had served from 1992-2000.

One of the most significant accomplishments he cited during his eight-year tenure?

Helping constituents get appointments with County Administrator John Gallagher.

* * *

EMILY LITELLA FOR STATE SENATE: In August, former Sheriff Lee Cannon, the Democratic candidate for state Senate, issued a blistering statement critical of Republican Mike Fasano.

"It is simply unconscionable that Mr. Fasano has given himself a pay raise during this budget crisis. . . . This displays an amazing level of insensitivity on Mr. Fasano's part, not to mention a total lack of respect for voters in District 11."

One little problem. Fasano hadn't accepted a legislative pay raise in seven years. His salary at the time was just more than $23,000, while other legislators were $6,000 higher.

Oh.

Never mind.

* * *

CASH MOTIVE: In September, members of the Forest Lake Estates Neighborhood Association accused Steven and Corrina Gourlay of violating the deed restrictions by operating a for-profit business in the neighborhood.

The profit-making venture? Foster children.

The couple is reimbursed an average of 56 cents an hour for each child.

* * *

WE INTERRUPT FOR PORT RICHEY: In the spring, Port Richey moved into its new City Hall and Police Department headquarters.

A few weeks later, three council members wanted police protection for their campaign signs. The tab came to 92 hours and an overtime bill totaling $2,036. Police made no arrests.

In the summer, citing excessive overtime and other costs, a citizens group sought to disband the police department just four months after the new headquarters opened.

As winter neared, Council member Pat Guttman, who helped run up the police overtime bill, proposed a new tax for police protection.

* * *

IS HARVEY WAITE FROM PORT RICHEY? In October, a Hernando County deputy apprehended the husband of state senator and congressional candidate Ginny Brown-Waite with stolen Karen Thurman campaign signs.

* * *

FAMILY TIES: Just before the November election, Lee Cannon hit Mike Fasano hard for living with his mother, contending Fasano didn't have the life experiences of raising a family and worrying about educating children. More than likely, Cannon hoped voters might read between the lines and receive another signal.

Cannon also changed his address from his Land O'Lakes domicile to an apartment at the Carlton Arms complex, in order to qualify as a district resident.

The Fasano camp considered but discarded the strategy of telling voters, "Lee Cannon moved out on his family."

* * *

I THOUGHT YOU TOLD THE PRESS: In December, the once-a-year meeting of the Property Value Adjustment Board had to be held a second time a week later because nobody notified the public or press of the first meeting.

* * *

TOP QUOTES: "I really got ripped off." -- New Port Richey Council member Tom Finn on being passed over for deputy mayor.

"You couldn't get five police cars if there was a shooting around here." -- New Port Richey government gadfly Richard Scholl, after he said five police cars came to his house when he was suspected of taking a half-dozen sod pieces from the new police department next to his house. Scholl was handcuffed temporarily but released when no charges were filed. Police said only four cars were at the scene.

"I'd do a commercial for Jeb Bush if they asked me." -- Sheriff Bob White on whether it was appropriate for deputies in uniform to do political commercials.

"It's just a ceremony. It's just children walking across a stage." -- School Board member Jean Larkin Weightman's description of high school commencement.

"I say we give them the finger." -- Commissioner Peter Altman, discussing a dispute between Pasco County and Dade City over whether an annexation created an enclave, or illegal finger of land. A court filing incorrectly attributed the quote to Commissioner Ted Schrader. It is now attributed to "unidentified speaker."

"I said I would trash her." -- School Board candidate Len Trubia, recounting his exchange with incumbent Cathi Martin at a candidate forum.

"I didn't think it was important to list all those little details." -- Trubia on why he didn't complete required candidate financial disclosure forms.

"It's a mystery." -- onetime murder suspect Jeffrey Crouch, explaining in April how he had the same telephone number as his girlfriend but hadn't violated a February court order not to have contact with her.

"I feel like I'm kind of the queen sitting here. Someone please come sit with me." -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Janet Reno, sipping tea by herself at Lunch on Lamoges during a March campaign trip to Dade City.

"I'm not shy." -- Dade City Chamber of Commerce President Charlotte Keefer, in the year's biggest understatement, who accepted Reno's offer.

"We pay more to kennel our dogs," Jack Levine, president of the Center for Florida's Children, reacting to the Forest Lake Estates charge that foster parenting is a moneymaker.

"I am particularly disappointed in your handling of this entire incident." -- City Manager Gerald Seeber to Police Chief Aage Madsen after a Times report in May detailed how the department voided a $118 speeding ticket for the chief's physician, and Madsen's conflicting accounts of when he learned of the ticket.

"Screwing up isn't the same as committing a crime." -- State Attorney Bernie McCabe in declining to investigate the ticket voiding.

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