Councilman's charge shows poor judgment

Published May 23, 2007

T he Brooksville Council has a lot on its plate. Breaking in a city manager. Beginning the search for a new city attorney. Rebuilding the morale of police department employees and finding a permanent replacement for the chief the council just forced out. Hiring a human resources director, who also was forced out.

And those are just the pending personnel issues. Beyond that, there are the more mundane matters of crafting the city budget, weighing several retail and residential development proposals, a scandal-ridden and debilitated Housing Authority, and a widening chasm between council members whose philosophies vary as much and as often as their temperaments.

So, it is frustrating for residents to watch state law enforcers waste their resources chasing down bogus allegations lodged by Councilman Richard Lewis, who claimed that David Pugh Sr., the mayor's father, assaulted him. In fact, according to witnesses and the State Attorney's Office, no attack took place in the parking lot following the May 7 council meeting; it was nothing more than an angry, chest-thumping exchange between two guys who let their testosterone levels get the best of them.

Witnesses said Lewis was fuming after coming out on the short end of several votes on the council that night, due in part to disagreements with Mayor David Pugh Jr. In the parking lot, the senior Pugh touched Lewis' arm as he commented that Lewis should be "a good loser." Lewis recoiled and the county attorney stepped in to end a shouting match that had the potential, but not the likelihood, of escalating. Lewis then decided to file a police report.

It was petty and ungentlemanly of Pugh to needle Lewis who, if nothing else, should have been more mindful of how this incident might affect his son's ability to effectively work with all his colleagues on the council.

But for Lewis to exaggerate the circumstance out of spite for an adversary showed extremely poor judgment and calls into question his ability to control his temper in a job that requires equal amounts of tolerance and humility.

It also was a misuse of public resources to satisfy a personal feud, and Brooksville residents should have no tolerance for a repeat of such behavior, especially by an elected representative.