Pasco Commissioner Pat Mulieri wants to have it both ways on one of the most imperative public policies during her 16-year tenure in office. The 2004 voter-approved Penny for Pasco sales tax continues to bolster the quality of life across the county via new schools, preserved land, safer roads and enhanced public safety equipment. Just three weeks before the referendum, Mulieri proclaimed her unequivocal support even though she was miffed the ballot date had advanced eight months from November 2004 to the March presidential primary.
These are her words at a commission workshop on Feb. 17, 2004:
"As an educator, the idea of an educated group of young people is so important to our community, seriously.
"I think safety on roads is extremely, extremely important.
"And when I think about leaving a quality of life for our children and our grandchildren by way of the environmental land acquisition program, (it) is most important.
"I don't agree that it's not on the November ballot, but I'm going to vote yes for it.''
Turns out, it was all a lie.
In an interview last week, Mulieri said she didn't vote for the penny-on-the-dollar tax at the ballot box because of the referendum date maneuvering — a change approved by the board on a 4-1 vote in September 2003. She denied supporting the tax publicly and said she didn't remember her statements from the commission dais.
"If you're saying I sat and told you whether I'm voting in that booth or not, I would never say that from the dais because my vote is my vote.''
Her deceit is magnified by the disingenuous and arrogant way she takes credit for the tax benefits. She refers to the purchase of portable defibrillators as "my defibrillators'' and points to "things we've done, the intersections we've done.''
She did none of it. She pushed for defibrillators to be part of the public safety package, then voted against it in the voting booth. If a majority of the electorate had shared her point of view, there would be no defibrillators. No replacement patrol cars. No laptop computers for deputies. No classrooms. No land preservation. No intersection improvements.
She should be ashamed, but instead she suggests criticism should be aimed at people who changed the date of the election to try to limit turnout. Her rationalization that the relevancy of her duplicity is diminished because the election was six years ago illustrates her lack of personal responsibility.
She can't blame others for blatantly misleading the public — and key community supporters, including nearly every Republican in local elected office — about her own vote. Her opponent in the Aug. 24 Republican primary for Pasco County Commission District 2, former state Rep. Ken Littlefield, supported the sales tax initiative and even campaigned for it by recording an automated telephone message urging people to vote for it.
Mulieri needs to take a lesson from that kind of leadership.