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New council member creates buzz

The Port Richey City Council member appointed to fill out the unexpired term rekindles an old controversy.

Dale Massad, the newest member of the Port Richey City Council, wasted no time before jabbing a hornet's nest.

Massad, who was appointed Tuesday night to fill the unexpired term of former councilman Bob Leggiere, took the mic at his first council meeting and announced that he had joined a cluster of city officials who gathered at the Seaside Inn after an August meeting.

That "post-meeting drink" shared by Leggiere, council members Joe Menicola and Tom Brown, City Manager Vince Lupo and City Attorney Paul Marino raised the hackles of some Port Richey citizens.

But after announcing that he was among those at the Seaside, Massad made it clear Tuesday that he saw nothing improper about the gathering.

Massad, who moved to Port Richey about a year ago from Palm Harbor, was nominated for the council vacancy by Menicola, who called the new council member "a dedicated individual."

Massad, 49, is president of Africare Enviro-Med Corp., which according to an Internet directory of volunteer organizations is a company that "provides a free medical clinic to the local Shangaan tribe in South Africa, in exchange for tribal help patrolling the borders of our endangered species ranch."

The statement also describes involvement in the company as "a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference."

"Exciting travel is possible as well," according to the mission statement.

Massad relinquished his license to practice medicine eight years ago, after the Florida Board of Medicine accused him of negligence for his role in the death of a 3-year-old girl.

The child was brought to Massad's Palm Harbor office in 1990 for laser treatments to lighten facial birthmarks, called port wine stains. The treatments caused the youngster such pain, according to the case records, that Massad obtained the assistance of a dentist in a neighboring office. Before three of the laser treatments, which took place over several months, the dentist gave the child multiple injections of lidocaine around her face and head.

During the August 1990 treatment, the child turned blue. She was flown by helicopter to All Childrens Hospital in St. Petersburg, where she died several days later of lidocaine toxicity.

The Board of Dentistry revoked the license of the dentist. According to the Board of Medicine, Massad failed to check the lidocaine dosage, took no action when the child had seizures and failed to revive her properly when she stopped breathing. Massad's training was in emergency care. He once was medical director of Pinellas County's Emergency Medical Services.

During the medical board hearings on the complaint against Massad, Dr. Zachariah P. Zachariah, then the board chairman, called him "a serious threat to the public."

The board spokesperson said Massad relinquished his license to spare his son continued embarrassment from the much-publicized hearings on the case.

"If I could give up my license and get that baby back, I'd be happy to," Massad told the Times in 1992.

Wednesday, Massad declined to discuss his appointment to the City Council or his previous problems.

"I'm going to tell you something, the St. Petersburg Times is sort of an assassin," he said. "I've watched the way you people report. I really don't have any comment.

"I'm just an interested citizen, trying to do my duty and the best job I can."

Menicola said Massad's history is irrelevant.

"I don't believe that's anybody's business," Menicola said. "I think you're talking apples and oranges."

Mayor Eloise Taylor disagreed.

"If there have been major problems with his licensing, that would give anybody pause to be concerned about his judgment," she said.

_ Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.