Advertisement
  1. News

Bowen: Dale Massad channels Phil Connors in a Port Richey version of 'Groundhog Day'

Published Mar. 31, 2016

Dale Massad had a cinematic flashback.

"I think I'm in Groundhog Day somehow,'' the Port Richey mayor said during a March 22 City Council debate over grant funding for a pipe to carry reclaimed water. The same topic had dominated the council discussion two weeks earlier.

Massad was right about the repetition, but missed on his context.

Anybody who attended in person or watched the digital feed may have thought this Port Richey City Council meeting had played out multiple times previously, starting around the turn of the century.

The session was noisy, combative and rude. It was Port Richey City Hall from a bygone era.

For instance, during public comment, there stood Tom Brown, a frequent critic, chastising the performance of departing City Manager Tom O'Neill.

"The city manager's reign has not been good,'' said Brown.

But Brown is a bit player — think Ned Ryerson — in this production compared to Massad's self-proclaimed personification of Phil Connors, the Punxsutawney-trapped weather forecaster.

Among other things, Massad, a two-time former council member elected in October to fill the mayoral vacancy after the death of Eloise Taylor, reminded the council audience last week that he used to be an emergency room physician. He also used "Doc'' as his nickname on the election ballot and portrayed himself as a "retired'' doctor during the campaign.

More precisely, he surrendered his license to practice medicine in 1992 after he was accused of negligence after the death of one of his patients — a 3-year-old girl. The chairman of the Florida Board of Medicine called Massad "a serious threat to the public.''

He made headlines again when, a day after filing his candidacy papers, police were summoned to his house to answer an unfounded complaint that homeless voyeurs were living in Massad's air-conditioning vents watching him have sex with his cocaine-tooting girlfriend.

"If I was you I would think I am crazy, too," Massad told officers when they asked him to put down his firearm.

Later, his campaign strategy included producing and distributing what he called "The Weekly Doc,'' a mock newspaper filled with his diatribes that put nicknames on public figures, including "Chubby Dancer'' for former City Manager Vince Lupo; "Witch of the South'' for the late mayor (just three weeks after her death); "Pom Pom Nanc'' and "Empty Oneil'' for council members Nancy Britton and Steve O'Neil, and "Nerdy newsman'' for yours truly.

At least there were no references to pants wetting or hand size, but Massad's erratic behavior and juvenility won out. With 40 percent of the vote, he earned the mayor's seat in a three-way race and now holds the gavel.

These campaign fliers also became a meeting topic last week when, during public comment, former council member Phyllis Grae read a letter penned to Massad by Arthur Giammarino of Sand Pebble Pointe. In it, Giammarino criticized the "pink'' fliers as insulting, inaccurate, condescending and disrespectful to the late mayor. He said the mayor ridiculed council members, denigrated both the city manager and the police chief and opposed any project that might benefit the residents of Sand Pebble.

"That is the biggest load of garbage and erroneous crap I have ever heard,'' Massad answered.

Clearly, decorum escapes him.

Then came this exchange:

Did you trash everybody on council except Terry Rowe? Giammarino asked.

"Pretty much,'' Massad said.

Did you trash the late mayor?

"Yes, I sure did.''

Giammarino, incidentally, said his "pink'' reference was to the colored paper on which the fliers were printed.

Massad said he thought Giammarino was calling him a Communist.

Honest.

"You're in a fog,'' Giammarino told Massad. "You're definitely in a fog.''

Phil Connors had to figure out how to serve other people of the community instead of being guided by his own self-indulgences to get out of his Groundhog Day fog.

We'll see if Massad comes to the same realization.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. James Rybicki, 63, faces charges of lewd and lascivious molestation and possession of child pornography. But he could go free after a judge found that Pinellas sheriff’s detectives and Pinellas-Pasco prosecutors lied to obtain a search warrant in his case. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
    A Pinellas sheriff’s detective and Pinellas-Pasco prosecutors “made false statements” to obtain a search warrant, a judge has ruled. The evidence was thrown out.
  2. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, with Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif, the ranking member, concludes a day of testimony by key witnesses as it probes President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    The United States ambassador to the European Union told the impeachment inquiry his efforts to press Ukraine to announce investigations were ordered by President Trump, and top officials knew.
  3. The woman was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle and culpable negligence.
  4. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Pamela Campbell during a hearing to review the guardianship cases once overseen by Traci Hudson, who faces criminal charges in one of those cases. Hudson was not present during Wednesday's hearing in a St. Petersburg courtroom. Pinellas sheriff's detectives say she stole more than $500,000 from an elderly man for whom she held power of attorney. Court records show she was appointed as a guardian in about two dozen cases. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Traci Hudson had served as guardian overseeing the affairs of 26 people until her arrest on a charge of exploitation of the elderly. Her handling of those cases will be reviewed.
  5. Robert "Bobby" Mavis, 40, top left, is shown in this family photo with his wife Elizabeth and their children, from left, Evan, Kendall and Kyle. The father of three died in the Nov. 13 chain-reaction crash on northbound Interstate 75 in Hillsborough County. Courtesy Elizabeth Mavis
    Robert “Bobby” Mavis, 40, was on his way home from work last week when a semi-trailer truck crashed into his Mercedes.
  6. Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority bus driver Rekira Owens is seen at the wheel behind a newly installed shield as they board the bus on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Tampa.  The clear divider is meant to protect drivers from physical assaults after a driver was killed earlier this year. A bus driver on Tuesday was operating a vehicle without a shield when he was attacked by a rider. CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times
    About 75 buses still need the clear, plastic doors. The transit authority plans to install eight a day.
  7. Bins filled with products move on conveyor belts at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Ruskin. Amazon just announced it will open a similar center in Auburndale, Fla. (Times | 2018) Tampa Bay Times
    The new center will span more than 1 million square feet and be No. 11 in the state.
  8. Vacant land along Manhattan Avenue at the north end of MacDill Air Force base may the site of the forgotten Port Tampa Cemetery. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The property was a burial ground for people who lived in the old city of Port Tampa.
  9. An overlay map showing where Ridgewood Cemetery is located on the King High School campus. The red outline indicates the boundary of the cemetery and the pink boxes the graves. GeoView
    Ridgewood Cemetery, a pauper’s burial ground from the mid-20th century, was sold to the school district as part of the property where King was later built.
  10. Ashley Laquita Moore, 34, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and culpable negligence after intentionally running into a bus. Hillsborough County Sherriff's Office
    Ashley Laquita Moore faces charges of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle and culpable negligence.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement