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2 take oath of office: 1 more to go

A recount Wednesday may help pick the winner of a tied Port Richey council race.

By MATTHEW WAITE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 17, 2001


PORT RICHEY -- In a normal year, Monday night's swearing in of Mayor Eloise Taylor and council member Phyllis Grae would have been just as it was.

A mayor and a City Council member took the oath of office, while families, supporters and sitting council members packed the council chambers. There was some clapping, and the meeting ended.

But it has been anything but a normal year in Port Richey. Instead of just two swearing ins, as an odd-numbered election year normally has, there should have been three, but the third winning candidate has yet to be found.

The third was held up by a rarity in elections: a tie. And that race was due to yet another oddity: the need to complete the remaining year of a council member who quit abruptly in October.

Who will fill the seat, Bill Bennett or Dale Massad, might be decided when ballots are hand-recounted -- still another rare occurrence -- on Wednesday morning. If that count ends in a tie again, the two candidates will draw lots for the one-year term -- unheard of in recent memory.

Adding to that, Bob Leggiere, who lost to Taylor by nine votes, still could challenge the election. He wasn't saying on Monday, referring calls to his attorney, who could not be reached.

No matter what happens, Monday's swearing in began the end of a campaign that involved some bitter politicking and a grand jury convened to investigate Leggiere's actions with the Building Department. The two sworn in Monday night both said they wished the winning council candidate, whoever that proves to be, could have been sworn in with them so they could begin working on city issues and put politics behind them.

"It just didn't want to end in a nice normal way," Grae said of the election. "It just couldn't.

"But we have our work to do. The people have spoken."

Taylor said as soon as the new council member takes his seat, the council has work to do. She said the new council would have to set priorities.

"There is an end in sight," she said.

- Staff writer Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waite@sptimes.com.

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