1. Archive

Tirade by city official irks GOP

Calling him a "rogue Republican," a top Pasco GOP official on Friday denounced Port Richey City Council member Joe Menicola for a profanity-laced tirade last year and said the party is considering a public response to his "totally inexcusable" behavior.

"If I lived in Port Richey," said elected Republican state committeewoman Lona O'Reilly, "I'd personally ask for his resignation."

More likely, O'Reilly said, the party will attempt to distance itself from Menicola by issuing a public reprimand and, possibly, an apology from the local GOP leadership.

"There is no excuse for this type of behavior," O'Reilly said. "If this is how he chooses to conduct himself, then I, representing the Republicans of this county, would have to make a public apology for this man."

In an interview with the Pasco Times, a defiant Menicola shot back: "To each their own. What can I tell you? . . . She has no right to make a comment like that. That's absurd."

Menicola's elected position on the City Council is nonpartisan, but he is a registered Republican. A few years ago he had a leadership position with the Pasco GOP, serving as the vice chairman of the Republican Executive Committee before resigning.

O'Reilly said the party is taking the unusual step of speaking out against one of its own because, despite the fact that Menicola did not run for office on the GOP ticket, "Everyone knows he's a Republican."

"I feel he has marred the party's name," O'Reilly said.

O'Reilly was responding to a story in the Times on Friday detailing Menicola's outrage at Port Richey police after his son got a speeding ticket last November and the officer, in the council member's words, "didn't even extend a courtesy when he saw the last name."

The Times' story was based on audiotapes the newspaper obtained from the city through a public records request.

Menicola, according to the tapes, was not just angry that his 32-year-old son, Anthony, had been ensnared in a speed trap on Washington Street. He also was upset because he believed that police didn't treat him with respect when he showed up and walked up to his son's truck. The officer asked him to move away from the truck.

"I beg your f------ pardon," Menicola said he told the officer. "Who you talkin' at?"

On one tape, a recording of a message Menicola left on City Manager Vince Lupo's answering machine, Menicola said, "I f------ declared war on the police department."

Port Richey police Chief William Downs opened a criminal investigation into Menicola. The investigation made its way to the State Attorney's Office, where it ended without charges being filed.

The Times on Friday also published a transcript of the answering machine message, as well as most of a recorded telephone conversation between Menicola and Lupo. In that conversation, Menicola made liberal use of the f-word.

O'Reilly said she read the story and the transcript Friday morning and "my eyes hit my teeth."

"I can't imagine a public official would conduct himself in such a fashion," O'Reilly said. "The language he uses shows a lack of character."

By day's end, O'Reilly said, local Republican officials were discussing what they could do to distance the party from Menicola. That discussion is expected to continue this morning at a meeting of local GOP leaders.

"I don't condone that kind of behavior in any public official," said elected state Republican committeeman John Renke.

While local GOP leaders expressed outrage over Menicola's behavior, one of the county's most prominent Republicans took a hands-off approach.

"I've heard nothing," said state Rep. Mike Fasano. One thing he has learned as a state representative, Fasano said, is to stay out of city politics.

Anthony Menicola, meanwhile, called the Times on Friday to defend his father.

"I want people to know this was my ticket," Anthony Menicola said. "I don't want people to think my father is a bad man because he blew off a little steam.

"Maybe he was sticking up for his son, and maybe he went about it the wrong way," Anthony Menicola said. But he said his father had good reason to be upset. The police, he said, yelled at his father after Menicola showed up at the traffic stop and asked what was going on.

"He was on the council long enough for them to know he was on the council," Anthony Menicola said. "You don't treat your superiors that way."

As for the tickets he received for speeding and not wearing his seat belt, Anthony Menicola said he paid the $167 fine because "I didn't want any problems."

"I wasn't looking for any kind of courtesy," Anthony Menicola said. "I said to my father, "Let's just let this lie. I'll take care of it.' "