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In this tale of two cities, dysfunction is the theme

If this is a contest, it's hard to discern the leader.

Representatives of the Port Richey and New Port Richey city governments staged their own brand of one-upmanship over the past week in a battle of bizarre behavior. By Friday, people must have wondered if they were watching a real-life version of Dumb and Dumber.

It started in Port Richey _ naturally _ when we learned the city manager, earlier in the year, had agreed to sign up as a director of a nonprofit agency run by one of his bosses _ a City Council member. This is actually tame compared with some of the other shenanigans that have gone on in Port Richey, but it still showed an inability to separate personal and professional obligations.

Tom Finn made sure the bad press was short-lived. Finn, sitting on the dais at the New Port Richey City Council meeting Tuesday evening, called for the resignation of council member Virginia Miller.

Her transgression? She accused Finn of sexual harassment. Her husband, Bob, had more choice words. He acknowledged he told Finn he would kill him if Finn touched his wife again.

Finn said he merely tapped Miller on the shoulder while they were both at an out-of-town conference on redevelopment. Miller won't detail what happened, except to say that she doesn't consider a shoulder tap to be sexual harassment.

So the public is left with he said, he said.

But he said plenty. Referencing terrorist activities, Finn said that if Miller didn't resign, or if the council didn't take steps to remove her from office, he would file a criminal complaint, charging Miller and her husband with assault.

Of course, Finn added that he would be satisfied with an apology. Talk about a sledgehammer approach.

Just more goofiness among an increasingly dysfunctional council. Already, city residents have been treated to temper tantrums, walkouts and a promised resignation that never materialized. Now, we've got allegations of sexual harassment and threats of physical violence and criminal charges.

These people don't need Jerry Seeber. They need Jerry Springer.

Port Richey, however, can skip the trash-television host. That city has trash-mouth council member Joe Menicola.

Just when the behavior in New Port Richey elevated the embarrassment, Menicola turned the spotlight right back on Port Richey.

Police investigative files released this week revealed Menicola, in profanity-laced diatribes, declared war on his city's Police Department and threatened the job of Chief William Downs after police ticketed Menicola's 32-year-old son last year for speeding and failure to wear a seat belt.

"Didn't even extend a courtesy when he saw the last name," Menicola complained about the officer.

Menicola's lack of decorum is astounding. And we don't just mean his barnyard language.

He insulted the officer, referring to him as fat in a recorded message left on City Manager Vince Lupo's answering machine.

He tried to influence public safety operations. He approached the minister at the Baptist church where officers had established their radar zone on Washington Street and told him that allowing police in the parking lot reflected poorly on the church.

He called the radar zone "nonsense" and said it would be better suited on U.S. 19 because police were harassing nearby residents. Menicola, it should be noted, lives nearby and has said previously he drives on Washington Street every day.

Incidentally, notations on the Police Department logs indicate officers issued 145 tickets over a seven-day period. Only six went to city residents. So much for hassling the locals.

Menicola also threatened Downs' job, telling Lupo that three votes ended any argument and later said he could make sure Downs was back walking a beat.

City employees answer to Lupo, not the council. Yet when Menicola discovered the Times had the investigative report, he said he suspected it was leaked for political reasons, possibly by a city employee. "I will have that person's job," he boasted.

He still doesn't get it.

Is it any wonder Menicola turned down a chance to amend the City Charter to add penalties for council members who butt into the day-to-day operations of the city?

It was some week. Tom Finn vs. Joe Menicola.

Yes, it's hard to say who's winning this contest. The loser, however, is easy to identify.

It's the public.

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