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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Private actions cloud a public servant's role
By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published June 14, 2007
Pasco Commissioner Pat Mulieri needs to show better judgment in conducting the public's business than she does handling her private affairs. Sunday afternoon, Mulieri and her husband, Jimmy, attempted to bully sheriff's deputies into illegally muscling unwanted tenants from their rental property.
The account, contained in separate reports from two responding deputies, says the angry commissioner waved a lease agreement in a deputy's face and called him useless. Her husband's belligerence included threats to Sheriff Bob White's $94.7-million budget request, which must be reviewed and approved by commissioners.
"The Sheriff's Office wants $95-million for his budget, let's see what happens now. Don't give them any money. You guys aren't getting anything, " the report quotes Jimmy Mulieri.
His other commentary, according to the reports, included telling his wife "not to deal with these two guys, get the sheriff up here, the real sheriff" and using an ugly racial epithet by telling a deputy "all this is about is n------ living for free."
The Mulieris had summoned deputies because their tenant, Karen Runyon, had reported unwanted guests. The three guests turned out to be Runyon's son-in-law, his twin brother, and a friend, all of whom had been residing at the residence rent free for months and had been receiving their mail there.
Florida law prohibits landlords from evicting tenants without a judge's order. The deputies urged Mulieri and Runyon to begin eviction proceedings, and went to the property to ask the men if they would be willing to leave voluntarily. They agreed, but said they needed several days to pack their belongings and arrange other housing.
The Mulieris' ignorance of their responsibilities as landlords is distressing, but their strong-arm tactics to attempt to intimidate deputies is worse. Commissioner Mulieri has an obligation to the citizens of Pasco County to balance the need for public safety with available resources. She allowed her anger over a private matter to damage her credibility as a civil servant by casting doubt about her motives as she considers the sheriff's spending request.
The commissioner, in an interview with Times staff writer David DeCamp, said that won't be the case. Still, Mulieri's version of events is hard to swallow. She acknowledges the deputies quoted her husband accurately, but then maintains officers misrepresented her comments and actions. She also said she did not remember her husband using a racial slur.
For their behavior, Mulieri and her husband owe an apology to Deputies George Wilson and Denton Steele and to Sheriff White for badgering his employees with ill-conceived threats of political retaliation.
It would be wise for Mulieri to brush up on landlord-tenant laws as well. Kicking people, even perceived freeloaders, out on the street is not an acceptable alternative for someone proclaiming a need for more affordable housing opportunities in the county.