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A Times Editorial

Leggiere's excuses aren't good enough

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 4, 2003

Bob Leggiere doesn't need a bartender, he needs a dentist.

Leggiere, the former acting mayor of Port Richey running for his old job in the April 8 election, tried to explain away his arrest on a drinking and driving charge by blaming a toothache for his behavior.

It is the story he used to rationalize his 1988 conviction for driving under the influence. Shots of brandy, he said. Leggiere told a similar tale after his arrest Thursday night to Times staff writer Matthew Waite. He said took a painkiller for his tooth after consuming drinks in a bar. Here's a health tip: Skip the scotch; try flossing.

(Leggiere must have been in so much pain he couldn't keep his accounts straight. The Tampa Tribune quoted Leggiere blaming medication from his recent aneurysm surgery for his perceived poor driving.)

It is understood that Leggiere is presumed innocent unless a court says otherwise. But his astounding lack of personal responsibility is disturbing for a man again asking for the public's trust.

Among the cockamamie tidbits Leggiere is trying to unload on the electorate is the contention his arrest is a political setup. Port Richey police are out to get Leggiere, he said, because officers wrongly believe he wants to fold the department.

Leggiere now says he is a big supporter of the police force. So how does he show his support? By insulting the department's professionalism with accusations of political retribution.

If Leggiere does advocate maintaining the local department, he should be more proactive. Had he made such a statement publicly during the acrimonious debate over the department's future, the City Council clique still loyal to him might have backed off its position more quickly.

Besides, there is evidence contradicting Leggiere's claim. Unless, of course, it is all a colossal coincidence rivaling Leggiere's history of aching teeth.

Prior to his arrest Thursday night, Leggiere was drinking at the Seaside Inn with ex-mayor Jim Carter, currently the bingo lobbyist for Port Richey Casinos. Carter called for police Chief William Downs' resignation two years ago after a grand jury convened to investigate Leggiere's relationship with the city Building Department. Carter's pronouncement that Downs embarrassed the city and "unjustifiably attacked Leggiere's reputation" came before the grand jury released its report which detailed Leggiere's interference at the department and called for adding punitive remedies for council members violating the City Charter.

The Seaside, incidentally, is where Leggiere, as acting mayor, met with two other council members for post-public-meeting beer sessions in the summer of 2000. One was then-council member Tom Brown, who resigned from office during the investigation of Leggiere, and who first met with Sheriff Bob White to advocate the sheriff assume responsibility for Port Richey's law enforcement.

If Leggiere is pro city police, he must have forgotten to tell his political buddies.

Regardless, Leggiere should stop blaming others for his drinking and driving. Officers didn't ply him with scotch and soda, force him behind the wheel of his car and require him, as an officer said he observed, to drive across the center line of Old Post Road numerous times.

Whether justifying his interference at the Building Department on the sloppy work of a former building official or faulting the police and the media for his drinking and driving, Leggiere refuses to be accountable for his actions.

If he wants to be considered a serious candidate for public servant, he should stop looking for scapegoats for his own poor judgment.

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