1. Pasco

To quorum or not to quorum? In Port Richey, it doesn't matter.

Port Richey City Council member Richard Bloom speaks during Thursday's meeting. [JUSTIN TROMBLY   |   Times]
Port Richey City Council member Richard Bloom speaks during Thursday's meeting. [JUSTIN TROMBLY | Times]
Published Apr. 5, 2019

PORT RICHEY — Quorum or no quorum, the residents of this city just can't catch a break.

When Port Richey City Council last met on March 26 — in the wake of the arrest of two mayors — it did not have the quorum needed to fill the council spot vacated by the arrest and subsequent resignation of ex-mayor and current Pasco County jail inmate Dale Massad.

That's because City Council member Richard Bloom called in minutes before the meeting and said food poisoning prevented him from attending. Without Bloom's presence, no one could be appointed.

Well, Bloom showed up for Thursday's meeting. Now council had a quorum.

It didn't matter.

No one was appointed to the council vacancy because Bloom refused to second the nomination of any of the citizens who stepped forward to serve. That prevented the full council (okay, the three left) from voting on a candidate.

"No, no, hell no!" shouted one member of the audience to the council dais.

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Is Port Richey government back on track? Spoiler alert ... No.

Here's the set-up: Council member William Dittmer chaired the meeting. By holding the gavel, he could not second any proposal made by the council. Only the other two members could do that: council member Jennie Sorrell and Bloom.

Six residents addressed the council and made their cases for the open seat.

Several emphasized that they do not have criminal records.

Sorrell nominated just one, Janet Eckermann, a nurse and educator.

Bloom refused to second it. Motion failed.

Bloom then nominated Joseph Parisi, who had filed to run for Sorrell and Dittmer's seats in the upcoming April 9 election. But Parisi was disqualified by the city after Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley's office discovered Parisi paid his qualifying fee to the city using a personal check drawn from the account of his live-in partner. That's against state law.

However, the fact that Parisi was ineligible to run for council did not dissuade Bloom from thinking he should join council.

"The only person in this room that ran for one of those two seats ... that wanted to run as a permanent council person was Joe Parisi," Bloom said. "He was committed."

Sorrell did not second that nomination.

Then Dittmer jumped in, passing the gavel to Sorrell so he could make his own nomination: Todd Maklary, an engineer and two-year resident of the city.

But Bloom wouldn't second that nomination, either. Motion failed.

Afterward, Bloom stood by his decisions.

"Why should I vote for somebody just because they wanted it?" he asked, gesturing to Sorrell and Dittmer.

As for the citizens who volunteered to fill the seat, Bloom said: "If they were so interested in filling that seat, why didn't they run for the general election?"

"Councilman Bloom refused to accept the gavel knowing full well that it would allow two votes," City Manager Vincent Lupo said. "So he played a game of chess, and evidently, he succeeded."

Bloom has made other moves. He turned in a letter of resignation effective June 18 so that he can run for mayor.

Sorrell said she didn't second Bloom's nomination because she disagreed with his choice, but did not elaborate

Earlier in the meeting, Sorrell said the council should start the process of removing the other mayor who was arrested, interim mayor Terrence Rowe, who was later arrested on charges that he conspired with Massad.

Massad was arrested on charges that he was practicing medicine without a license inside his house, and faces attempted murder charges because authorities said he fired at the deputies who raided his house on Feb. 21.

Rowe was recorded in a jail phone call conspiring with Massad to intimidate an officer working the unlicensed practice of medicine case, authorities say. Rowe was arrested March 14, then suspended by the governor. But Rowe hasn't resigned, leaving city government paralyzed.

Bloom argued that it would be unfair of the council to punish Rowe by removing him from office when he hasn't been tried or convicted of anything.

"Nobody's (deciding he's) guilty or not guilty," Sorrell said. "But he should not hold this city hostage and not prevent the way that we are moving forward."

Bloom wouldn't second that, arguing Rowe deserved to have his day in court before being stripped of office.

"If everybody out there was arrested, but not convicted, wouldn't you want your day in court?" he asked the audience. "Wouldn't you want to defend yourself? Or would you want your neighbors to already accuse you of what you did?"

So when will Port Richey get back on track?

"Maybe next time," Sorrell said.

That would have been the April 10 City Council meeting, but city officials announced on Friday that it was cancelled because Sorrell has to leave the state. The next meeting, then, is slated for April 23.

Times staff writer Rebecca Woolington contributed to this report. Contact Justin Trombly at Follow @JustinTrombly. Contact Justin Trombly at Follow @JustinTrombly.