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State attorney files DUI charge against Port Richey city manager

PORT RICHEY — Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe filed a DUI charge Thursday against Port Richey City Manager Tom O’Neill, who police discovered unconscious behind the wheel of his car the night of July 13.

O’Neill’s blood alcohol content was .367 — more than four-times the legal limit — according to an affidavit filed by the officer who declined to arrest O’Neill that night.

Instead, New Port Richey Cpl. William Phillips reclassified the traffic stop as a “welfare check” and O’Neill was taken to North Bay Hospital.

O’Neill said he is in the process of hiring an attorney and that he would issue a statement to the press “when all this is resolved.”

McCabe subpoenaed O’Neill’s medical records from the incident as well as the EMS report.

In his sworn statement, Phillips said he learned that O’Neill “had been consuming large amounts of alcohol just prior to” his contact with the officer.

Phillips “could see the telltale signs of intoxication, to-wit: watery, bloodshot eyes, dazed expression, and slurred speech.”

The case has raised questions as to whether O’Neill, a former administrator for New Port Richey, received special treatment from police.

Police released dashboard video that shows an individual who was unable to stand or walk without assistance from paramedics. Phillips, who was first on the scene, requested back-up from outside agencies but the only agency that was available to respond was Port Richey Police.

The Port Richey officer videotaped the incident, but he also called Port Richey Police Chief Dave Brown to the scene. Brown, who is O’Neill’s employee and also describes himself as a close friend, told Phillips his boss was taking medication for a health condition. Brown then followed the ambulance to the hospital and later gave O’Neill a ride home. The Port Richey police drove O’Neill’s car to his house, and Phillips returned the car keys to O’Neill at the hospital.

O’Neill has refused to publicly disclose the medical condition he was suffering from the night of the incident. His arraignment on a single misdemeanor count of DUI is scheduled for Sept. 12 at 1:30 p.m.

McCabe said his office is not looking into whether there was misconduct by any of the officers involved in the case. “I didn’t come across anything that would warrant a further review,” he said. “It’s been fairly well reported what happened that night. I only look at criminal stuff.”

Port Richey’s mayor and council discussed the incident during their Aug. 13 meeting and have stood behind O’Neill, who was hired as city manager in 2011 after a 35-year career with the city of New Port Richey.

“At this point the legal process needs to go forward,” Councilman Steve O’Neill said.

Steve O’Neill, no relation to Tom O’Neill, said Brown’s behavior on the night in question needs to be addressed.

“There will be two components to this — and I don’t think it’ll be water under the bridge,” he said. “At some point, questions will be asked and answered.”

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