PORT RICHEY — State Rep. Amber Mariano did not commit a crime when she asked state police to investigate allegations against the city of Port Richey, authorities said Wednesday.
Last week, City Manager Vince Lupo and City Attorney James Mathieu asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to charge Mariano with filing a false police report after they said they debunked her claims the city had acted inappropriately in refinancing a $3 million bond and in how it spent its redevelopment money.
The FDLE said it reviewed the city’s complaint and forwarded its findings Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney Bernie McCabe.
“McCabe informed FDLE that no crime had occurred," the state agency said in an email. “Our review is closed.”
The city’s complaint was made three days after Mariano announced she and Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Palm Harbor, planned to file legislation to revoke Port Richey’s charter and turn governance over to Pasco County. Mariano, a Hudson Republican, called the city’s complaint “absolute nonsense’’ and retribution for her proposed bill.
Mariano cited the city’s prior scandals, mounting debt and fiscal irresponsibility as reasons why she intends to file the bill. City officials disputed her claims of growing debt and irresponsible spending and said the state representative provided no documentation of any wrongdoing when she was interviewed by state agents in May.
FDLE officials said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times that Mariano’s claims did not spur the agency to launch an investigation of the city.
Port Richey’s scandals, however, are well-documented. Then-Mayor Dale Massad was arrested in February on a charge of practicing medicine without a license and multiple counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer after he was accused of firing two shots at Pasco sheriff’s deputies executing a search warrant.
Later, both Massad and his successor, then-Acting Mayor Terrence Rowe, were accused of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. A jury convicted Massad on those latter charges. The case against Rowe is pending. Both resigned their public offices.
Pasco County’s legislative delegation is scheduled to hear the Mariano-Hooper bill at its annual meeting beginning at 8 a.m. Friday at Pasco-Hernando State College’s performing arts building in New Port Richey.