PORT RICHEY — An information technology specialist for the city has resigned after he was charged with using city equipment to make fake driver's licenses and growing marijuana at his rental home — a house owned by the city's fire chief.
Port Richey officials expressed shock after learning of the allegations against Anthony Ryan Conley, 29, who authorities say admitted his actions.
Pasco sheriff's deputies arrested Conley last month at his home at 4312 Admiral Drive in New Port Richey, which is owned by Port Richey fire Chief Tim Fussell.
Detectives went to the home on the morning of Oct. 24 after receiving an anonymous tip that Conley was "growing a lot of drugs," according to a sheriff's report.
When Conley opened the front door, the detectives could smell marijuana, and Conley admitted having a grow operation in the house. After Conley signed a consent form for a search, the detectives found four plants weighing 15 pounds, along with drug paraphernalia. He denied selling marijuana, saying it was for personal use, the report stated.
Detectives also found 12 "fraudulent driver's license cards" in a drawer in a bedroom, along with three computer towers and a Xerox printer owned by the city. In addition, they found a shirt and hat with Port Richey Police Department insignias, and a pair of handcuffs owned by the city, all of which were turned over to the Police Department.
Authorities say Conley admitted that he made the fake driver's licenses with city equipment that is used to make employee identification cards. He told the detectives he provided the fake licenses to friends who are under the age of 21 so they could buy alcohol, according to the sheriff's report.
Conley, who did not return a phone call from the Tampa Bay Times seeking comment, has pleaded not guilty in Circuit Court to charges of cultivation of marijuana, possession of not more than 20 grams of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and manufacture/possession of counterfeit driver's licenses, according to court records.
Fussell, the fire chief, said he was "shocked" by the arrest, but intends to let Conley continue to live in the house. Fussell said Conley has been renting the home from him since 2013, and there never had been a problem. He added that Conley was a respected and well-liked employee for the city of Port Richey.
"He's a good guy who made a mistake. I'm not one to kick someone who is down," Fussell said. "He knows he has got some responsibilities to take care of, and as long as he does that maybe this will be the thing to help him turn his life around."
City Manager Tom O'Neill told the Times he was informed of the arrest the day it happened. O'Neill said he immediately put Conley, who has worked for the city since 2010 and made $38,563 a year, on unpaid leave and cut off his access to city computer systems. Conley resigned Oct. 31.
"I was surprised and disappointed," O'Neill said of the arrest. "I thought he did a good job. He is very capable. I guess I was just shocked."