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Port Richey voters may pick new mayor in August elections

PORT RICHEY — Hours after federal authorities announced criminal charges against former Mayor Richard Rober and his wife for unpaid taxes, City Council members approached a consensus on holding a special election in August to fill Rober's old seat.

Rober, 52, resigned late last month, saying he expected the feds to take legal action against himself and his wife, Averill. The U.S. Attorney's Office said the couple underreported more than $239,000 from 2005 to 2007, with unpaid taxes exceeding $55,000.

During an organizational meeting Monday night at City Hall, Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley told the council a special election could be held as early as July, but he urged the city to "piggyback" on the county's Aug. 14 primary elections.

If the city went forward with a July election, it would cost Port Richey about $4,000. If the city added the mayoral race to the August elections, Corley said, it wouldn't cost Port Richey anything.

The council is set to vote on the matter next week, but board members were receptive to Corley's suggestion.

"It seems to me to be somewhat of a no-brainer," council member Terry Rowe said of holding the election in August.

The council also determined Monday night which of the three re-elected members would get a one-year term. Council member Steve O'Neill volunteered to take the one-year term, stepping aside for Rowe and council member Nancy Britton to serve three-year terms.

All three won new terms when no one filed to run against them in February. But their easy victory created a quandary for the city, which has been moving from two- to three-year terms. As part of the transition, the city charter said the top two vote-getters in 2012 would get three-year terms and the third finisher would get a one-year term.

Except with no challengers in this year's elections, there was no third-place finisher.

Voters approved a referendum last week allowing any council member to voluntarily take the one-year term, or else the short term would be decided by drawing straws.

O'Neill, who has been on the council for six years, said taking the shorter term was the best option for him.

"I've had three terms, so for me one year is the best decision," he said.

Port Richey voters may pick new mayor in August elections 04/17/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 9:05pm]
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