NEW PORT RICHEY — It was one thing when Pasco County decided to name a hurricane shelter after state Sen. Mike Fasano. After all, Fasano, R-New Port Richey, landed the money to build it.
But posting his campaign fundraiser on the county Web site as a public, government-sanctioned event?
"In my opinion, this crosses the line," said his opponent, Democrat Fred Taylor, on Wednesday. "I'd like to know who is responsible. … If they're going to do this, I deserve to get equal time."
County and state officials don't see quite the same travesty. But Pasco plans to start keeping political events separate from official events, said county budget director Mike Nurrenbrock, who oversees technology for the county.
Fasano's event Friday in Palm Harbor was listed in an online calendar among nonpartisan commission events such as ribbon cuttings and board meetings. After the Times inquired, the listing was removed by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
"I don't think that's appropriate," said Commission Chairman Ted Schrader, a Republican. "I don't think that's the intent of the Pasco County Web site, to put fundraisers for political candidates."
But he and other county officials say it was done to avoid another predicament: violation of the state's open meetings law.
Whenever more than one county commissioner is invited to the same event, the event is listed on the county Web site (pascocountyfl.net). That way, there's public notice that elected officials are together.
Besides Fasano, judicial candidate Robert Angus Williams and unsuccessful School Board candidate Kurt Conover have had campaign events in their nonpartisan races listed, officials said.
Jennifer Krell Davis, a spokeswoman for the state elections division, said the listing isn't illegal because no money or support is requested. It's only a notice.
"When you think about it, then anybody could crash any of their fundraisers," she said.
Before a new county Web site went up in late July, such events were listed separately from government meetings or sponsored events. Nurrenbrock said separate listings will avoid any confusion between official county events and outside ones.
Fasano and Schrader said no one requested the senator's event be listed. In fact, its start time was wrongly listed at noon instead of 6 p.m.
"I'll be glad to meet them at noon," Fasano quipped.
David DeCamp can be reached at email@example.com or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232.