Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New rules silence frequent critic of Port Richey City Council

PORT RICHEY — Port Richey's most consistent critic was silenced Tuesday night by a little-known portion of the city's charter.

Before former city computer specialist Kevin Hamm could address the City Council as he had done week after week, Mayor Richard Rober announced he would be strictly adhering to the charter that says anyone addressing the council must be a city resident or a party to an issue on the agenda.

Hamm, 47, lives outside the city. Since being fired last year, he has taken three minutes each meeting to decry the city's handling of various issues from city purchases to the handling of his public record requests.

Rober informed Hamm before Tuesday's meeting he could not speak to the council due to the new rules, but Hamm stayed for the meeting and vowed to continue challenging city policies.

"There are other ways to get information out to the public," Hamm told Rober.

"Good luck with that, sir," Rober said, walking away.

After the meeting, Rober said in recent days he has been inundated with complaints about the public speaking portion of meetings. Rober has long allowed anyone to speak for three minutes at council meetings prior to the regular agenda, but the outcry has caused him to change the policy.

"When enough people come to me, I need to take notice," Rober said.

Rober said Hamm's scrutiny of a recent fireworks show upset many people in the city who enjoyed the show.

Hamm's latest address to the council came on July 26 when he announced he had filed an ethics complaint with the state against Vice Mayor Bill Colombo stemming from a Waterfront Park July Fourth fireworks show paid for by the city.

Colombo and former council member Bill Bennett own B&B of Port Richey, a fireworks company that put on the show. The city issued a $5,000 check to a local non-profit, Celebrate Port Richey, which then gave the money to B&B.

Hamm stated in his complaint Colombo should have revealed his involvement in B&B during discussions of the fireworks show, and he also found B&B did not have a city occupational license at the time of the display.

Bennett and Colombo both said they spent all the money on the show, and Colombo said he would have recused himself from any vote on funding the fireworks show. There was no vote as interim City Manager Dave Brown, who is also the police chief, gave Celebrate Port Richey the funds.

Hamm also filed an ethics complaint against Brown for his handling of the fireworks funding, but the chief has not commented on it. Brown did not attend the council meeting Tuesday because he was sick, according to city finance director Pam Zeigler.

Did the mayor enact the new policy to prevent Hamm speaking during meetings?

"No," he said. "This is going to affect a lot of people, including Mr. Hamm, who are used to talking to us."

Hamm, who had planned to again discuss the fireworks display at Tuesday's meeting, sees it another way: a direct attempt to "quash" his First Amendment rights.

"It's amazing,'' he said. "For as long as I can remember, citizens have been able to speak to the council about their concerns — until you say something they don't like."

New rules silence frequent critic of Port Richey City Council 08/10/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 6:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Chasing 125: Bucs hope to hit rushing goal more often


    Ever so often, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter pulls back the curtain a bit and shares some of the stats that matter to him most as a coach.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
  2. Two Boca Ciega students arrested on charges they brought gun to high school football game


    PINELLAS PARK — Two Boca Ciega High School students were arrested for having a loaded semi-automatic handgun with them at a Friday night football game at Pinellas Park High School.

    Two Boca Ciega High School students were arrested for bringing a weapon on school property on Friday night at a high school football game at Pinellas Park High School.
  3. Bucs-Jaguars was NFL's lowest-rated ESPN game since 2005


    It is just the preseason, and it is the Jaguars, but Thursday night's Bucs-Jags preseason game earned a 1.6 rating on ESPN, which is the lowest-rated preseason game (excluding NFL Network) in 12 years, according to Sports Media Watch.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, left, talks with coach Dirk Koetter during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  4. Crash at U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park kills one, shuts down traffic


    PINELLAS PARK — A man is dead after a crash between two cars at the intersection of U.S. Highway 19 and 70th Avenue N just after 7 a.m. Saturday.

    Pinellas Park police are investigating the death of a man during a crash on U.S. 19 early Saturday. (Pinellas Park police)
  5. Tropics watch: The latest on Harvey and what systems could hit Florida


    While Eastern and Central America monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Harvey, two tropical disturbances are moving through the Atlantic.