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Bickering, blame mark end of council campaign


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 9, 2001

NEW PORT RICHEY -- In the last weekend before the election, two candidates for New Port Richey City Council are pointing fingers at each other, criticizing each other for things the other said.

On Saturday, Tom Finn, a current council member running for re-election, sent a letter to Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning claiming that John DiGiorgio "has violated the election laws of the state of Florida and slandered me."

DiGiorgio's response on Sunday: "I don't understand how he thinks I've slandered him.

"I did not just make it up. A fact on the record is not slander."

The two are feuding over Finn's comments during a League of Women's Voters candidate forum and DiGiorgio's campaign flier and published response to the Times' decision not to editorially endorse him.

Finn, in his letter, claims DiGiorgio is misrepresenting his words about a proposed program that would have the city buy up homes under $25,000, allowing the homeowner to live in the home until the owner died, and then taking ownership. Finn was asked about the program at the March 29 candidate forum.

Finn said the program came up at a council workshop last fall and wasn't his idea. Finn said he would support the program if it came up as a voluntary option for people, and as another tool for the city to redevelop neighborhoods.

"It's not something in the works today," Finn said Sunday.

DiGiorgio said it's "ghoulish" for the city to wait "like two vultures" for people to die to take their homes, and criticized Finn in his letter to the Times for considering it. DiGiorgio said he didn't like the program, and didn't think the city should be in the real estate business.

Finn, in his letter to Browning, also complains about DiGiorgio's criticism of a skate board park. He said DiGiorgio's criticism "threatens to undermine" the project between Pasco County and the city.

DiGiorgio said he supports the skateboard park -- his son is a skateboarder -- but he worries about the city being sued if people get injured. DiGiorgio said no matter if there are liability waivers or signs posted, people still sue.

Finn and DiGiorgio are two of an eight-candidate slate for three spots on the City Council. The election is Tuesday.

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