A dead heat for a City Council seat comes down to a coin flip and a random drawing. Also, a deadline passes for a challenge to the mayor's race.
By MATTHEW WAITE
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 24, 2001
PORT RICHEY -- Port Richey's ongoing election oddity will end tonight.
That's when the two candidates for City Council who, after two recounts, ended up tied will put their hopes in a coin flip and a random drawing before the council meeting.
And on Monday, the deadline for Bob Leggiere to contest his nine-vote loss to Mayor Eloise Taylor came and went with no challenge filed.
Leggiere had demanded a recount after the April 10 elections because of what he called voter fraud and ballot irregularities, but was denied by the Pasco County Canvassing Board. That board recommended to Leggiere that his claims would be better argued in an election challenge.
On Monday, Leggiere wouldn't comment to the Times.
No challenge was filed in the courts, and Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning said he received no challenge by the end of the business day. State law says a challenge has to be filed within 10 days after the election is certified, which would have been Sunday, making Monday the deadline.
Taylor said she was glad to see her nine-vote win stick, and was ready for the council race to be done.
"It's the election that doesn't want to seem to go away," Taylor said. "It's good to be able to put this election to rest."
How that council election will be put to rest is part of what has made this local election so bizarre.
The campaigns went on while a grand jury investigated the city's building department and called Leggiere, a candidate for mayor, to appear before it. The candidates divided themselves into tickets, and the fliers they circulated were laced with bitter criticism.
When the ballots first were counted, Dale Massad had won the remaining year of Tom Brown's council term, beating Bill Bennett by a vote. The margin, however, fell within the margin for an automatic recount.
When that was done, Bennett and Massad tied at 369. When they were recounted again on Wednesday, this time by hand, the number stuck: 369.
State law, and the city's charter, both say ties are broken by drawing lots.
Tonight at City Hall a city official will flip a coin. The winner of that flip will then pull one of two film canisters out of a box with a message inside that will say if they are the one that gets to spend the next year on the council.
Massad, who was appointed to the council in September to replace Leggiere, who resigned to run unsuccessfully against Taylor, is in his native Oklahoma visiting family and friends. He has designated Sandra Spauldi to stand in for him. Spauldi is a fixture at council meetings and sits on the city Planning and Zoning Board.
City Clerk Shirley Dresch said that if Massad is the winner, he will be sworn in at the May 8 council meeting, and a vice mayor will then be selected. If Bennett wins, he will be sworn in and a vice mayor will be chosen tonight.
- Staff writer Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247.