Ex-girlfriend of ousted Port Richey Mayor claims his arrest was payback

Pasco County

Jodie Cunningham lived for years with former Port Richey Mayor Dale Massad.

For a time, they had a romantic relationship.

“We just hit it off right away and had a whirlpool love affair for several years,” said Cunningham.

Their relationship had plenty of ups and downs and even a few calls to police related to domestic violence.

Cunningham says she learned from Massad that police were “out to get him” because Massad wanted to dissolve the Port Richey Police Department.

“About eight months ago, 10 months ago he started changing. He said, ‘they’re coming after me, they’re really going to try to hurt me.’ He goes, ‘I don’t know what to do,'” said Cunningham.

It’s an allegation strongly denied by Port Richey Police Chief Gerard DeCanio.

“I didn’t come here and take the job as the chief of police to topple Dale Massad or Terrance Rowe. They both supported me coming back here as the chief and I supported them,” said DeCanio.

Cunningham’s name is mentioned in a number of police reports when officers visited Massad’s home after calls to 911.

On once occasion Massad and Cunningham reported homeless people were living under their boat dock.

They then told officers the homeless had moved into the attic and then Massad took out a gun and pointed it at the air conditioning vent and told the officer the homeless had crawled in, according to the report.

The officer asked Massad to put down the gun. Cunningham says much of the report is false.

“I don’t think they checked anywhere. I think they immediately separated us and immediately started on me with the drugs. ‘What kind of drugs is he doing? What are you doing,'” said Cunningham.

The report says she told the officer she had done a line of cocaine in the morning, but she maintains the officer was just trying to get information that would make Massad look bad.

“When the police got there, they said, they weren’t looking for anything but drugs,” said Cunningham.

DeCanio says the most recent investigation started when people living with Massad came forward with information that the former mayor was doing illegal things in his home. DeCanio presented that information to the city manager.

“We were instructed to turn it over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement,” said DeCanio.

From there, the police chief says the FDLE took over the investigation and his department stayed out of it.

“The FDLE then took the lead on this. The FDLE did the search warrant. The FDLE did the arrest warrant. The FDLE took Dale Massad into custody. The FDLE took Terrance Rowe into custody. Not the Port Richey Police Department,” said DeCanio.

Massad was arrested by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office after an early morning raid that Cunningham believes was excessive.

Massad was charged with several counts of attempted murder after he fired his weapon at officers as they came into his home.

Massad’s attorney maintains his client was frightened and didn’t know who was coming into the home.
Cunningham says the arrest and jail have taken a heavy toll on the former mayor.

“He has been deteriorating since he got in there. He’s very disoriented. He doesn’t know where he is. His health is, and his attorney’s confirmed it, his health is deteriorating rapidly,” said Cunningham.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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