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Ethics Commission Clears Palm Coast’s Tony Capela of Corruption or Favoritism in City Work

| July 31, 2013

Swale on. (Palm Coast)

Swale on. (Palm Coast)

The Florida Ethics Commission has dismissed a whistleblower’s complaint against Palm Coast Public Works Superintendent Tony Capela, 13 months after dismissing related complaints against City Manager Jim landon and Human Resources Director Wendy Cullen.

The commission concluded last week, in a ruling made public today, that while ex-Palm Coast employee Terry Geigert’s complaints were not groundless, none of the issues rose to the level of corruption. Nor was she wrongfully fired. The findings reveal a city administration where Capela operated imperiously with his supervisors’ knowledge, but that he could not be blamed for negligent supervision, or the absence of clear policies regarding certain financial matters. A serious allegation that he favored one company over others could not be proved. And the commission investigator accepted Capela’s explanation surrounding a trip to Fort Lauderdale, when he rented a boat and helped remodel a friend’s condo when he was supposed to be attending a city conference.

Capela has been working for Palm Coast as street superintendent since 2006. RoadTek incorporated in Florida in 2008 as a company that does patchwork, guardrails and road sign installation. It’s owned by Rui Ferreira, a friend of Capela’s. Capela and Ferreira had previously worked together at a construction company in Massachusetts. Geigert alleged that Capela “ensured that RoadTek received all of the city’s contract work by setting contract limits below $15,000 so that no bidding by other contractors was required,” ethics commission papers state, though Geigert said there was no reason to hire RoadTek since city workers could do the same job.

In 2008 Capela was assigned more responsibilities, including swales work. The city’s swales repair teams were bypassed in many projects in favor of RoadTek, starting in March 2008. RoadTek got 11 work orders between March and August 2008, with City Public Works Director Richard Adams reviewing each order, and saying there was “no way” Capela could manipulate the orders to show favoritism. Adams and Capela say RoadTek got most of the contracts because it did the better work, and that, while RoadTek used city equipment—with Adams’s and Landon’s approval—other companies did, too.

The commission’s investigation by Melody Hadley confirmed through City Inspector Gary Lima that RoadTek work was, in fact, not inspected by the city—and that Capela instructed Kevin Howell, an inspector, to just drive by RoadTek projects and sign off on them. But Lima and Landon told investigators that the issue was subsequently addressed, and that RoadTek started being inspected, “even though there was nothing intentionally being done wrong.”

Geigert claimed RoadTek was allowed to store its equipment on city property, which is not allowed. She substantiated the allegation with photographs. Capela “denied knowledge of RoadTek equipment being stored on city property and contends he did not give permission for it to happen,” the ethics commission’s  advocate’s report states.

“Of all the issues brought forth by [Geigert],” the advocate concluded, “it appears the lack of inspections has the most merit. However, the element of corrupt intent is lacking because proof that [Capela]’s actions were inconsistent with the proper performance of his public duties is needed. It appears city management was complacent and/or in agreement with [Capela]’s actions.”

Fifteen months after Ferreira started working with Capela, Capela sold his house to Ferreira for cash. The ethics commission ruled that since the sale was from Capela to Ferreira, rather than from Capela to RoadTek, there was no conflict or violation. The commission also cites a Palm Coast investigation of the sale that cleared Capela of wrongdoing.

Geigert alleged she was retaliated against for blowing the whistle on Capela and was “set up to fail.” Capela, she claims, told her he could make up a lie to get her fired, Hadley’s report states. Her supervisor said she had a poor work ethics and was the subject of four written disciplinary actions before she was moved to a different department, whose supervisor issued one disciplinary action. Geigert was again transferred to a department where, as it turned out, Geigert’s computer skills were not what she had claimed they’d be. She was transferred to a concrete crew, :”where she failed again,” the advocate’s report states. She was then fired. Landon and Adams signed off on the firing, citing poor work.


Geigert blew the whistle on Capela’s practice of letting cash generated by the sale of city scrap metal to be used for parties and barbecues for employees, rather than having it deposited by the city’s finance department, though there’s no written policy on the matter, and Capela’s superiors had let the practice go on. But that practice had predated Capela’s arrival at the city. Adams eventually had Capela change the practice and follow city procedure, and the money was deposited through the finance department.

Geigert complained that Capela hired a friend, Renee Shevlin, among 22 candidates for public works chief operator, even though others were more qualified. The job required a bachelor’s degree and city government experience. Shevlin, who’d worked 25 years in a grocery store, had neither. Capela advocated for her, citing her work ethic.

“While it is evident that [Capela] has a preference for Shevlin,” the advocate’s report concludes, “it is also evident that pushing for Shevlin to get the position was not done with corrupt intent. It appears [Capela]’s intent was to select an individual who could ‘hit the ground running’ and thus benefit Public Works. Adams endorsed the choice.

Geigert turned over to investigators photographs taken with a city-owned digital camera that appeared to show Capela using a boat in Fort Lauderdale, and helping Shevlin remodel a condo, when Capela was supposed to be attending a conference for the city. Capela told investigators he personally rented the boat and used it after his conference duties. The advocate agreed.

So Hadley recommended against finding probable cause of corruption on any charges raised by Geigert, or that she was unfairly fired.

Florida Ethics Commission Report on Tony Capela

Terry Geigert’s Original Complaint

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15 Responses for “Ethics Commission Clears Palm Coast’s Tony Capela of Corruption or Favoritism in City Work”

  1. A.S.F. says:

    Let’s hear it for the good ole’ boy network, alive and well in Florida! Maybe Tony Capela can run for Governor after Scott.

  2. Dennis McDonald says:

    Palm Coast City Councilmen Stop Approving Incompetence and Fraud.

    Councilmen DeLorenzo, Ferguson, Lewis, McGuire it is now your turn to review this report and all the evidence. City Manager of the Year Landon works for you. Now that you have direct testimony from a State Agency you are required to act on it as our fiduciary representatives.
    The question you must act on is has Landon failed his job description ? Did he commit fraud ? Are his actions ethical ? Most of all did Landon perform with the best interests of the City in his actions ?
    After reading this report the one central theme is that the Ethics Commissioners found Capela in violation, but because Landon was fully knowlegable of Capela’s operating style, flawed performance, and end run around ethical behavior the Commissioners had no choice but to let Capela off the hook. In doing so I believe the Ethics Commissioners are saying Landon is guilty as the controlling City Official.
    Let’s stop wasting the Taxpayers time, $$ and patience. Landon is no more a City Manager than Anthony Wiener is a viable candidate for public office.
    I have long held the conviction that “the only reason managers exist, from first line supervisors to CEO is to make sure their people do NOT FAIL” Capela is clearly a failure on Landon’s watch. The Council should TERMINATE Landon for cause !

    Opinions from the New Palm Coast.
    Dennis McDonald

  3. Joe says:

    it all does sound a little fishy though.

  4. Speechless in Pal coast says:

    Always thought Landon was in over his managerial capabilities and paid too much. And one incompetent employee smearing another while we wonder what is wrong with our roads and swales. Thanks guys, nice job. Hope u enjoyed the parties on my dime.

  5. anonymous says:

    This was a case of a guy trying to do what he was asked to do behind closed doors which was to clean up and set the standard for Public Works. Nothing but a bunch of crying babies brought these complaints. If they would have done their jobs there wouldn’t have been a problem. Capela doesn’t ask or tell these people to do anything he won’t or hasn’t done himself. He knows his style of communicating hurt feelings and ruffled feathers and he truly understood and had to change that. He’s not the kind of boss that is going to watch one hundred plus City trucks cruise around and blow money all day, contrary to that do the research and see how much money he has saved the City. Don’t let sour grapes and vendettas run off someone who is truly an asset to the community. A lot of this stuff was hype to crush him out of existence. Let his work speak for him. This comment isn’t fluff either and no I don’t work for him. I’ve been in this town close to twenty five years, we don’t want to lose him.

  6. Magnolia says:

    I suppose our City Manager didn’t “intentionally” mean to swindle the taxpayers of this city out of $8.2 MILLION from our water fund, either?

    With all of the people out of work around here, this is the best you can do?

    “None of this done with corrupt intent?” I submit to you, Ladies and Gentleman, that, barring the use of the word CORRUPT, we have the most ethically challenged City Manager I have ever seen.

    “Geigert blew the whistle on Capela’s practice of letting cash generated by the sale of city scrap metal to be used for parties and barbecues for employees, rather than having it deposited by the city’s finance department, though there’s no written policy on the matter, and Capela’s superiors had let the practice go on. But that practice had predated Capela’s arrival at the city. Adams eventually had Capela change the practice and follow city procedure, and the money was deposited through the finance department.”

    What else have you been doing with city revenue that we don’t know about? Maybe an audit would be a good idea?

    This is grounds for dismissal, or prosecution, in most city governments.

    And we may just have the most ethically challenged State Ethics Committee I’ve ever seen. According to this article, Ms. Geigert proved all her charges and they ruled against her???????????

    These people need to go, NOW. Ethically challenged doesn’t even BEGIN to describe them.

  7. Magnolia says:

    Question to Mr. Capela and our City Manager:

    How could you NOT know equipment NOT belonging to the City was being stored on city property? It was right outside your office, within the City compound. MANY people saw it.

  8. tom jack says:

    capela’s superiors were “complacent or in agreement with letting contractors use city equipment.” as i understand public laws this is prosecuted as embezzlement or theft in most states. sounds like the whole lot of them should be fired from capela up through landen.

  9. Tired says:

    How does a middle manager making around $80k afford a house that costs over a million dollars to build plus the cost of the lot and the upgrades? Oh, throw in that fancy boat house too look at the cost on the permit he pulled. Not to mention the boats! Please don’t say his wife is a realitor, we know. We also know that she’s been one for under 5 years but managed to also start her own business and bought several lots as well. On top of that, how about the gopher tortoise relocation when you developed your lot? oh, that’s right, you didn’t have to be bothered with that because you “know people”. I hear you had money from up north, funny that the business you report on your taxes is ah, never mind. Folks, do some digging. They’ve only brushed the surface here and the state is NOT going to back up the residents. Get ‘er done yourselves!

    • Johnny says:

      His wife is a successful real estate agent that’s how….all u people leaving comments have no clue wat ur talking about..,Tony capela made this city wat it is today with the help of road tek ….just try and remember wat this city looked like before Tony got here

  10. karma says:

    I feel bad for the employees there. There are some good people who work in the Public Works Dept that deserve better. I hope you can all find new work elsewhere, because I don’t see anything improving there. Good Luck to you all !!!!

  11. Joe says:

    The only way to make your statement in this town/county is at the voting booth, elections have consequences!

  12. Carol says:

    Ha, ha, ha. I have to laugh. This city is sinking into the mire and no one seems to care. Back room deals, friends getting jobs, secret info handed out. Now Mr. Landon is pushing for a new city hall in town center again because his friends (Chimento and company) have property where no one wants to build. TO BAD. Real Estate is a risk sometimes you lose. oops, don’t ask Tony Capella, his wife, Pam Capella, a realtor in town had him buy 4 lots in town for way under value from a bank foreclosure. (Check county property records).
    What would this world be if it wasn’t for friends helping friends?

  13. Frank H says:

    Question: Why didn’t the city buy City Market Place when it was in foreclosure? They would have taken under the amount it was worth. The city could have had a small but steady stream of income from the rents and as the city needed more offices, they could have moved merchants out to OTHER vacant space around town. Does Mr. Landon really think that if we build a NEW CITY HALL in Town Center that the businesses will follow like magic? Drive around town Mr. Landon, empty store fronts everywhere. If we don’t have people and businesses to fill these, why would you think they will build and locate in Town Center? Oh, that’s right…your new City Hall.
    LOL

    • Raul Troche says:

      The Taj Mahal hasn’t caused businesses to come here and neither will a new city hall. We will be paying for that until 2035. A city with good fiscal control would be more appealing to relocating businesses.and to our resident population. From the article I would say “good Ol boys Capella and Landon are working in some pretty shady areas. I wonder who appoints the ethics commissioners.

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