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Port Richey city manager makes first court appearance on DUI charge

Port Richey city manager Tom O’Neill, center, appeared in court Thursday to be arraigned on a DUI charge, but Pasco County Judge Marc Salton recused himself. Prosecutors charged O’Neill with DUI after an investigation revealed he had a blood-alcohol level more than four times the level at which state law presumes a driver is impaired. Court documents for the misdemeanor DUI charge say O’Neill’s blood alcohol level was 0.367. Florida law presumes a driver impaired at a level of 0.08.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Port Richey city manager Tom O’Neill, center, appeared in court Thursday to be arraigned on a DUI charge, but Pasco County Judge Marc Salton recused himself. Prosecutors charged O’Neill with DUI after an investigation revealed he had a blood-alcohol level more than four times the level at which state law presumes a driver is impaired. Court documents for the misdemeanor DUI charge say O’Neill’s blood alcohol level was 0.367. Florida law presumes a driver impaired at a level of 0.08.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Tom O'Neill, the Port Richey city manager facing a DUI charge, appeared in court Thursday for arraignment.

Pasco County Judge Marc Salton recused himself from the case. In an order, Salton wrote that he and O'Neill "are in the same service organization and also know one another personally." A spokesman for the court said the two belong to Rotary.

The case was reassigned to another judge.

O'Neill was charged with misdemeanor DUI stemming from a July 13 incident in which he was found at the wheel of his SUV, apparently asleep, in the middle of the road with the engine running. He was unable to perform field sobriety exercises and smelled of alcohol, according to reports. But he was not further investigated for DUI that night, and instead was taken to a hospital.

The State Attorney's Office opened an investigation weeks later, after a story appeared in the Tampa Bay Times. Prosecutors obtained O'Neill's medical records from the hospital, which revealed he had a blood-alcohol level of .367, more than four times the limit at which Florida law presumes a driver impaired.

O'Neill, 59, has previously said he was suffering from a medical problem that night but has not revealed what it was. He was charged with DUI in August 1996 and pleaded no contest, court records show. He was sentenced to six months' probation, community service and DUI school.

He declined to comment Thursday, saying he wanted to wait until the case is resolved.

Port Richey city manager makes first court appearance on DUI charge 09/12/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:40pm]
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