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New Port Richey mayor erupts after wife's arrest at bar

NEW PORT RICHEY — Mayor Scott McPherson said he and his wife, Kimberly, wanted to blow off some steam after a busy week. On Sunday, the couple went to dinner at Bonefish Grill in Trinity. Just after midnight, they went for drinks at nearby Grille 54.

But within the hour, the McPhersons were at the center of a shouting match that landed Mrs. McPherson, 44, in jail on a charge she slapped her husband.

The mayor exploded with anger at the arrest, insisting to a dispatcher that a deputy had sexually assaulted his wife. He demanded to talk to Sheriff Bob White, whom he called a "friend."

A personal injury attorney, McPherson promised to sue. But by Monday afternoon, he was considering resigning as the elected leader of Pasco County's largest city. He said the official reports — lies, he said, meant to cover up a deputy's wrongdoing — had left him "emotionally crushed.''

"I am not saying I was a saint. I am sure I sound like an idiot in the tapes," McPherson, 45, wrote in an e-mail. "But the bottom line is that the deputy did everything in his power to escalate the situation, and he finally got what he wanted."

• • •

As Deputy Michael Shoup walked near the bar and grill on routine patrol, he wrote, McPherson chided him from a patio high-top stool.

"Uh oh, P.S.O. is here," Shoup recalled McPherson saying. McPherson then said he wanted to file a report, but wouldn't say why.

Mrs. McPherson slapped her husband, she told another deputy, as a playful thing and because he was acting like a "jerk." Both appeared drunk and smelled of alcohol, and the mayor was slurring his words and having trouble standing, deputies said.

Shoup handcuffed Mrs. McPherson and walked her to his cruiser on a charge of domestic battery. McPherson tried to order her release.

"Man to man, take me instead and release my wife," the mayor said, according to Shoup. After he refused, McPherson erupted toward deputies who had responded for backup, saying they were "f---ing idiots" and "Keystone Kops."

Deputy Daniel Olds wrote that McPherson said, "I am the mayor of New Port Richey, and you need to take the handcuffs off. … You cannot do this. I will have your jobs."

Sgt. William Lawless wrote that he said, "I'm an attorney. I know the law. You're an idiot. … I'll have IA (Internal Affairs) all over your a-- by morning. You will be looking for a new job."

Deputy Mark Ewald wrote that McPherson said, "You have the nicest, sweetest person in custody. Does that make your d--- feel big?"

McPherson also made three calls to county dispatchers, ordering one to tell Sheriff White to call his cell phone. When the dispatcher said he didn't have jurisdiction with them, McPherson said, "I actually do." McPherson also tried calling White himself, a sheriff's spokesman said.

Though the incident took place outside city limits and was investigated by county law enforcement, McPherson also called New Port Richey police officers and demanded a deputy's termination. He repeatedly said the deputy sexually molested his wife.

"I need him immediately off duty," he said, according to audio released Monday. "The man is dangerous to society."

When a dispatcher told him she needed to transfer him away from an emergency line, he said, "You're going to stay on the line with me because I really want to get this on the record, and I'm your mayor. That does not amount to jack s---, I don't care about that."

• • •

Confronted with the seven deputies' reports and four recorded calls, McPherson said he was trying to protect his wife of 27 years, not misuse his political influence.

"I said it in this context, 'If you guys want to really hurt me, then I'm the mayor of New Port Richey. Arrest me and let her go,' " he said. "I do not play that (political) card."

McPherson admitted he "had more than I should to drink," though he said he did not drive. His anger, he said, was in response to Shoup's "long session of mind torture," in which the deputy demanded of McPherson some "level of twisted worship."

Mrs. McPherson, an assistant at her husband's law firm, was released from jail Monday afternoon. McPherson, elected as mayor in 2008, said he would decide on his resignation this week.

"I am mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted right now," he said. "I'm having to read about my wife being charged with domestic violence. It's incomprehensible. I don't know, frankly, that I'm going to shape up any time soon."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Contact Drew Harwell at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

New Port Richey mayor erupts after wife's arrest at bar 07/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 7:33am]
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