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PR city manager pleads no contest to DUI

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NEW PORT RICHEY — Port Richey City Manager Tom O’Neill entered a no contest plea to a DUI charge and was ruled guilty by a county judge Monday inside the West Pasco Judicial Center.

The hearing stems from a driving under the influence incident that took place last summer.

County Judge Anne Wansboro ruled O’Neill guilty of DUI and placed him on one year of probation with no automatic termination. Additionally, he was fined just over $1,500; must enroll in a DUI school due to a 1996 DUI conviction; his license is revoked for six months; and he must adhere to a curfew between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless he must attend work, school, treatment or counseling.

O’Neill must continue with an alcohol treatment program and his car will be impounded for 10 days. An instrument will be placed on the car’s ignition, forcing O’Neill to give a breath sample before he can operate the car.

During the hearing, O’Neill’s attorney, Samuel Williams, said the treatment was more about stress than alcohol.

O’Neill refused to comment following the hearing.

O’Neill was charged with DUI on Aug. 29 by Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney Bernie McCabe following a July 13 incident in which O’Neill was found unresponsive behind the wheel of his SUV with the engine running just before midnight. Instead of being arrested or charged, O’Neill was taken to North Bay Hospital for medical treatment and the incident was classified as a welfare check by New Port Richey Cpl. William Phillips.

McCabe subpoenaed O’Neill’s medical records from that night and the documents revealed a blood draw performed at the hospital registered a 0.367 blood-alcohol content reading. A driver is considered impaired at 0.08, according to Florida law.

During a special meeting held Sept. 4, the Port Richey City Council voted to place O’Neill on unpaid leave and have him seek counseling following the DUI charge.

Just before the meeting began, O’Neill placed a memorandum at the desk of each council member, submitting his retirement. The note served as a 45-day notice, as stipulated in his contract, with his final day Oct. 28.

Instead the group voted for the 30-day suspension. Mayor Eloise Taylor said at the time the council had a range of options in the matter, from suspension to termination.

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