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Port Richey city manager gets 30-day suspension after DUI charge

Tom O’Neill submitted a retirement notice, but it was rejected.

Tom O’Neill submitted a retirement notice, but it was rejected.

PORT RICHEY — City Manager Tom O'Neill was suspended from his job for 30 days Wednesday and has agreed to enter into substance-abuse treatment after prosecutors last week charged him with DUI.

The punishment will not take effect for two months.

A State Attorney's Office report released Aug. 29 revealed O'Neill had a blood alcohol level of 0.367 — more than four times the level Florida law presumes a driver is impaired — after he was taken to the hospital on July 13 when a New Port Richey police officer found him asleep behind the wheel of his sport utility vehicle.

Police did not follow through with a DUI investigation, but prosecutors took up the case after a dashboard camera video of the incident surfaced showing O'Neill with his arms draped over paramedics' shoulders as he was helped to the back of his SUV. He was unable to perform sobriety tests at the scene, according to the police officer's report.

The charge led Port Richey Mayor Eloise Taylor to call a special meeting at City Hall on Wednesday to address O'Neill's status. She began by proposing the 30-day suspension and counseling for O'Neill.

Before the meeting, O'Neill submitted a notice of retirement memo to the council that would take effect Oct. 28. The board did not accept it.

Instead, the council opted for unpaid leave effective Nov. 4. O'Neill proposed two weeks of leave, which the council later bumped up to 30 days.

O'Neill told the council he came up with that date because he thought it in the best interest of the city for him to be part of upcoming hearings on the budget and water rates.

"We do have a rather intense month ahead of us," he said.

The majority of the council praised O'Neill's job performance before the DUI charge.

"I'm not accepting this," said council member Nancy Britton, holding up O'Neill's retirement memo. "I think you are a great city manager and I'm not accepting this."

Britton later made a motion for the city's attorney to draft a resolution for a vote at a later date outlining the counseling and 30-day suspension. Before a 4-1 vote, O'Neill agreed to the requirements, though he never specifically addressed his DUI charge.

The lone vote against the motion came from Council member Terry Rowe, who called for either O'Neill's resignation or firing.

"I'm sorry, mayor, I feel the council looks very weak with this movement," Rowe said of the motion.

Port Richey city manager gets 30-day suspension after DUI charge 09/04/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 11:08pm]
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