Questions raised after police fail to arrest Port Richey City Manager Thomas O'Neill in DUI case

11:11 AM, Aug 30, 2013   |    comments
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Dash Cam video of Port Richey's City Manager, Tom O'Neill, caused the New Port Richey Chief of Police to re-open the case from the night he was possibly intoxicated behind the wheel, but not issued a DUI.

 

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NEW PORT RICHEY, Florida -- When Cpl. William Phillips was called to check on an unconscious driver along Astor Drive in New Port Richey, he found who he recognized to be former city manager Thomas O'Neill passed out behind the wheel. 

Cpl. Phillips then called his supervisor, FHP and officers from Port Richey Police where O'Neill currently serves as city manager.

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Dash-cam video obtained by 10 News shows just how drunk he appeared to be. The call originally came in as a welfare check but was never reclassified as a DUI even though a report from the State Attorney's Office indicates there were all the tell tale signs of intoxication.

"I think it's terrible," said Kim Dornan who lives nearby. "If it was you, or me, or any of my friends we'd be in jail!"

New Port Richey residents are outraged their own police department would turn a blind eye to a clear violation of the law.

"Why did they try to cover this up? Because he's an official? That's wrong," said an angered Dornan.

This newly-obtained report from the State Attorney's Office now shows O'Neill actually had a blood alcohol level of .367, according to medical records from North Bay Hospital. 

Cpl. Phillips testified during the stop, he could smell a heavy odor of alcohol on O'Neill's breath and that he had watery, bloodshot eyes, a dazed expression, slurred speech, and could not stand without assistance. It wasn't until the dash-cam video was brought to the attention of the state attorney's office when an investigation was finally opened.

On Friday, New Port Richey's police chief denied there was any favoritism shown toward O'Neill.

Chief Kim Bogart says Cpl. Phillips will not be disciplined, but that police will change the way they go about handling situations like this in the future. Chief Bogart hopes to incorporate better procedures to follow-up in cases where DUI is suspected, but the driver is hospitalized because of suspicion of a medical issue. 

O'Neill has been issued a DUI misdemeanor citation and will now have to make an appearance in court. What action, if any, the City of Port Richey might take against their city manager remains unclear.

Follow 10 News Reporter Beau Zimmer on twitter @Zimm10


Beau Zimmer, 10 News

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