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Former city attorney, interim manager returns to lead Port Richey temporarily

Published Apr. 28, 2016

PORT RICHEY — The city's former attorney and interim manager, Jim Mathieu, has again been tapped to lead Port Richey, nearly a decade after a former City Council fired him for ties he had to members of that council that still exist.

During a meeting Tuesday, the City Council voted 3-0 to hire Mathieu, a local attorney and former chairman of the Pasco Republican Party, to serve as interim city manager after the departure of Tom O'Neill, who resigned effective this week after more than four years on the job. Mathieu will work 20 hours a week at an annual rate of about $40,000, half of O'Neill's salary.

Mathieu served as Port Richey city attorney from 2006 to 2008 and as interim city manager during that time for five months. His tenure as city attorney ended after a newly elected council in 2008 fired him after re-election bids by his live-in girlfriend, council member Nancy Britton, and council member Dale Massad, who owned a rental property with Mathieu. Both Britton and Massad lost their seats, and a newly minted council voted 3-2 to part ways with Mathieu due to those ties.

Things worked out differently for Mathieu this week as two recently elected council members, Jennie Sorrell and Will Dittmer, cast their votes to hire Mathieu. Vice Mayor Terry Rowe also voted for Mathieu.

Mathieu still lives with Britton, who has returned to the council since losing in 2008. And he still owns the investment property with Massad, who is now mayor. Both recused themselves from voting, but did discuss Mathieu.

Massad called him "brilliant" while Britton touched on the previous controversy surrounding her relationship with Mathieu. She said she had nothing to do with the decision to hire him then or now.

Sorrell and Dittmer also had an impact Tuesday night on an issue that has been the source of hours of recent debate: whether to accept a matching grant from the state to build a reclaimed water line in the city. The previous council had accepted the grant. The new council voted 4-1 to reject the grant, with Britton in dissent.

In other news, the council called on City Attorney Joseph Poblick to draft two new ordinances: one to allow dogs in the outdoor portions of restaurants, and another to come up with a fee and violation schedule to begin charging users of the city's Nicks Park boat ramp.

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