Pasco County Commissioner Pat Mulieri's dead cow issue is haunting her again.
The commissioner's husband, James, was fined $250 this week and warned he could face harsher penalties after deputies found a dead cow on the couple's ranch north of Gowers Corner, near U.S. 41 and State Road 52.
Neighbors tipped off authorities after noting an odor from the carcass on the Mulieris' 15-acre property. State law and a county ordinance require the immediate disposal of dead animals by burial or burning.
A deputy investigating on Monday spotted the cow and warned James Mulieri to bury it or face a fine, sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said. Two days later, the deputy handed him a citation after noting the dead animal still had not been buried.
"We try to work with ranchers, realizing these things can happen," said Doll. "We don't want to have to fine someone."
Mulieri could face a stiffer penalty: If the carcass is left unattended for too long, he could be arrested on a second-degree misdemeanor charge, which is punishable by up to 60 days in jail under state law.
Deputies are monitoring the property. As of Thursday, the cow had not been buried, Doll said.
This wasn't Mulieri's first scrape with authorities over dead cows.
The rancher faced scrutiny in November 2012 when five dead cows went unburied.
Mulieri interred the carcasses after being warned, but deputies were called out again when neighbors complained the bodies remained partially uncovered.
State law requires animal carcasses to be buried at least 2 feet deep.
At the time, the couple owned about two dozen head of cattle.
Calls on Friday to the commissioner and to the couple's home were not returned.
Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.