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Leave a message at the bleep . . .

A customer service coup it wasn't.

Folks who called Tax Collector Mike Olson's office Wednesday evening heard an unusual recorded greeting. It explained that Olson couldn't come to the phone because he was "f------" an employee.

The male voice on the answering machine informed callers to leave a message and the tax collector would get back to them when he finished.

"This is one of the wildest things that has ever happened to me in all my years in public office," Olson said Thursday in a tone mildly amused and highly annoyed.

"If it wasn't for the fact that it was obscene, it would be laughable," Olson said, the incapacitated answering machine resting in front of him. "It was offensive. Here are people trying to call the office who obviously shouldn't have to hear that."

The message played for at least an hour until someone alerted Olson at home that his machine was telling callers about more than office hours. He promptly headed back to the New Port Richey office and pulled the plug.

Olson suspects someone cracked the code on his $60 machine and over the phone replaced the tax collector's normally innocuous message with something more attention grabbing. He also suspects who did it, but would not name the man. He believes it has nothing to do with any county employee or with political opponents.

Olson turned the tape over to the Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the matter as an obscene phone call.

At least four people called Olson's office Thursday morning to inquire about the startling message they had heard the night before. How many people heard the message is hard to say, though. The machine counted more than 20 calls, but word of the recording spread quickly Wednesday night and a number of people, Olson included, called the number several times to rehear the tape.

"Who would ever think somebody would hack into someone's answering machine and leave an obscene message?" Olson asked, shaking his head. "We're obviously not going to use these $60 Radio Shack answering machines anymore."