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Council: No penalties in city charter

A state grand jury had recommended that Port Richey include penalties for elected officials who interfere with city workers.

By MATTHEW WAITE

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 14, 2001


PORT RICHEY -- Bob Leggiere's actions with the building department -- which brought on a police and grand jury investigation and triggered political upheaval in Port Richey -- won't result in any changes to the city's charter.

On Tuesday night -- nearly a year after the investigation into Leggiere's actions surfaced -- a motion to study putting penalties in the charter for elected officials interfering with city workers died when no one would second council member Bill Bennett's motion.

In April, a state grand jury issued a report recommending that the city put penalties in the charter for interference to prevent elected officials from interfering with city workers. Leggiere was accused of interfering with three building officials during his tenure as a City Council member.

Joe Menicola, Pat Guttman and Phyllis Grae -- all Leggiere allies -- said they didn't want to impose penalties for different reasons.

Menicola didn't want to fear a "dictatorial city manager" or political grudges. Guttman didn't want to fear a lying city employee. And Grae said imposing restrictions on council members challenged her integrity.

"We would be walking on eggs," Guttman said. "It would just tie our hands."

Mayor Eloise Taylor, who twice beat Leggiere in elections, said it was important to put penalties in the charter, but to be wary of biased or political uses of them. "It is important to limit the political intermeddling," she said.

But Menicola said Leggiere's actions were an "isolated incident" and that Leggiere "may have made a mistake." He said the city shouldn't react to that.

- Staff writer Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247.

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