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Leave over, PR manager quizzed about DUI charge

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PORT RICHEY — After returning from a monthlong suspension, City Manager Tom O’Neill faced lingering questions Tuesday night about the drunken driving charge that led City Council to place him on unpaid leave.

Council members approved a belated resolution Tuesday about the disciplinary action against O’Neill, even though the city manager had served 30 days of probation, starting Nov. 2, before returning to his post.

Council member Bill Colombo asked for an update of the counseling sessions O’Neill is supposed to complete as part of the terms of his suspension.

O’Neill assured officials he had gone beyond the council’s guidance in seeking help for substance abuse at his own expense.

More questions could surface next week during a pretrial conference hearing for O’Neill scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 17, according to Pasco clerk of court records. O’Neill said he had no comment about the case after the council meeting Tuesday.

On Aug. 29, Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney Bernie McCabe filed a driving under the influence charge, a first-degree misdemeanor, against O’Neill. That led council members to call a special meeting on Sept. 4 about disciplinary action.

On July 13, New Port Richey police discovered O’Neill unconscious behind the wheel of his car. O’Neill’s blood alcohol content was 0.367, more than four-times the legal limit, according to an affidavit filed by the officer who declined to arrest O’Neill that night.

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

On Aug. 6, O’Neill said in a phone interview that he was in need of medical attention for chronic conditions.

In late August, Councilman Terrence Rowe had called for O’Neill’s resignation in light of the manager’s pending DUI charge.

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