PORT RICHEY — Two mayors have been arrested. One resigned. The other was suspended but won't quit. The city is still stuck with that one, leaving Port Richey in political paralysis for six weeks and counting.
So residents this week started the process of launching a recall election to oust City Council member Terry Rowe, the former vice mayor-turned-acting mayor who was jailed March 13. Rowe faces charges that he conspired with the man he replaced, former mayor Dale Massad, against a police officer who helped investigate Massad.
Rowe was suspended from duty by Gov. Ron DeSantis and has not participated in any city business since March. But he has also refused to step down, and the remaining council members can't agree on whether to remove him.
Thus, Rowe remains on City Council but can't vote on anything.
"This was our last choice," said Lisa Burke, 57, an organizer of the recall movement who is also a member of Port Richey's Citizens Advisory Committee.
The recall movement submitted 208 signatures of registered Port Richey voters to the city on Monday. Under state law, a municipal recall petition for a city the size of Port Richey requires the signatures of either at least 100 electors or at least 10 percent of registered voters from the last municipal election. According to Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, that number would be 179.
The signatures and paperwork were given to City Clerk Sal Licari, who told the Tampa Bay Times that it was submitted to the Pasco County Supervisor of Elections for verification.
That verification was been completed, Corley said. Now organizers will need to gather a second round of signatures, this time from 15 percent of registered voters from the last municipal election.
Rowe did not return a call for comment Tuesday from the Times.
Burke said residents rallied around the idea of holding a recall election after the April 4 City Council meeting. That's when council member Richard Bloom voted against a motion to start the process of removing and replacing Rowe. There are only three council members left, and Bloom blocked all attempts to remove Rowe, saying he should have his day in court.
But Burke said the city can't wait that long.
"We need that council seat filled," she said, later adding: "It's not about whether Terry's guilty."
Also awaiting his day in court is Massad, who faces charges of the unlicensed practice of medicine and attempted murder after the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said he fired on deputies who raided his home Feb. 21. Massad has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Burke said she has heard people criticize the citizens of Port Richey for electing someone facing the kind of allegations that Massad does.
"Well, that's not gonna happen this time," she said. "Everybody's being a lot more diligent."
Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated the requirements for a recall petition. It has been updated with the latest, correct information.
Contact Justin Trombly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @JustinTrombly.
TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE: Two Port Richey Mayors Arrested