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Wrong account gets Port Richey candidate kicked off ballot

ALICE HERDEN | Special to the Times There will be no contested election for two Port Richey City Council seats in the April 9 election after challenger Joseph Parisi was disqualified.
ALICE HERDEN | Special to the Times There will be no contested election for two Port Richey City Council seats in the April 9 election after challenger Joseph Parisi was disqualified.
Published Mar. 13, 2019

Two incumbent Port Richey City Council members won re-election Tuesday when their only challenger was kicked off the ballot.

Challenger Joseph Anthony Parisi was disqualified from the April 9 election after Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley discovered the candidate had paid the qualifying fee to the city with a personal check drawn from the account of Janet Slusarz, Parisi's live-in partner and campaign treasurer. Under state law, the qualifying fee must be paid with a check drawn from the candidate's campaign account.

"I'm very disappointed. Absolutely,'' Parisi said Tuesday afternoon.

The error means incumbents William "Will'' Detmer and Jennie L. Sorrell return to the council without a challenge. Under the city's election format, the top two voter-getters would have won the council seats.

A referendum question remains on the April 9 ballot for Port Richey voters. They are being asked if the city charter should be changed so the city manager can be dismissed by a three-person majority of the council, rather than a four-fifths majority.

A special election to fill the vacancy caused by the departure of former mayor Dale Massad is scheduled for June 18. Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Massad after he was charged with practicing medicine without a license and five counts of premeditated attempted murder after deputies said he fired at them as they attempted to raid his Port Richey home last month.

The Feb. 12 check from the account of Slusarz should not have been accepted by City Clerk Sal Licari as the qualifying fee payment, Corley said.

"I feel bad for (Parisi), but it's not our issue, it's Port Richey's issue,'' Corley said.

The discrepancy came to light Monday when the Supervisor of Elections Office was verfying Parisi's campaign treasurer report and noticed the $43.20 check from Slusarz for city filing fees was listed as an in-kind contribution. It asked Licari for a copy of the check and then conferred with the general counsel for the Florida Division of Elections before notifying Parisi and the city of the disqualification.

Parisi, 59, already had loaned his campaign $1,000, giving him the fund-raising lead through Monday. He said he planned to seek a council seat in the future.

"I had a lot of backing, a lot of support. I'll be back,'' Parisi said. "I'm a Chicago boy. We don't give up.''

Contact Charles Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.

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