Challenger cries foul over free press for incumbent
New Port Richey Deputy Mayor Bill Phillips thinks incumbent Commissioner Jack Mariano is getting some free and advantageous campaign publicity – from Pasco County government.
Tuesday morning, the county announced its commission meetings can be viewed via the MyPasco app for smartphones and tablets. The press release included a photo taken from a broadcast of a more than year-old commission meeting depicting Mariano as chairman.
“Needless to say, it appears that Jack has received an endorsement from the Pasco County government, which is disappointing since he is up for re-election,’’ Phillips wrote in an e-mail to County Administrator Michele Baker. “I guess I should not be surprised since some of the commissioners feel as though they can push the envelope or blur the lines between their office and campaigning.
“Of course, the damage has already been done with this additional publicity, which I hope he shows as an ‘in-kind’ contribution on his campaign report from Pasco County government.’’
Both Baker and Public Information Officer Doug Tobin said the intent was not to promote Mariano’s re-election campaign in which he is being challenged by Phillips and two others in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.
“We apologize for any perception that county staff may have inadvertently created. It was certainly not intentional and we have taken steps to correct the situation,’’ Baker responded.
Phillips, however, was not placated.
“Using this photo with the chairman title is disappointing to say the least,’’ Phillips wrote back. “In my public service it says volumes when the entire elected group is not highlighted when marketing new services/programs. It is supposed to be a collaborative/collegial body that works together to benefit the entire county.’’
Mariano is seeking a fourth term on the commission. He most recently served as chairman a one-year term ending in November 2014. The county’s press release can be viewed at www.pascocountyfl.net/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3299