Palm Coast Street Superintendent Tony Capela had been with the city almost a decade. For the administration, he had become the face–and on occasion the somewhat loud voice–of a take-charge approach to street and swale maintenance, as well as a slew of projects that the city had previously contracted out. He was close to City Manager Jim Landon, who lauded him as a money-saver and an efficient taskmaster, though Capela’s approach also led to an ethics commission complaint against him (it was dismissed) and complaints that he could be too brusque with his employees.
On Friday, Capela resigned unexpectedly at the end of the day. Landon immediately accepted his resignation. By Monday, his presence had vanished from the city’s intranet.
“It’s not unusual with a high-level position to accept a resignation right away,” Cindi Lane, the city’s chief spokesperson, said.
Capela submitted a brief letter of resignation but it had not yet made its way to the city’s central offices Monday morning. “He did not do an exit interview. I don’t think one was planned,” Lane said. (In early afternoon the two-line letter was produced. Capela only says he’s resigning, offering no reason. The document is typed and unsigned.)
Capela, whose salary last June was 86,720, oversaw the largest division in the city’s largest department: streets and drainage, which organizationally falls under the city’s Utilities Department. Capela oversaw some 100 employees. To the city administration’s displeasure, the utilities department’s blue collar workers unionized last July. The city’s firefighters are also unionized.
In mid-2013, the Florida Commission on Ethics investigated Capela after a former employee, Terry Geigert, filed a complaint charging that Capela showed favoritism to RoadTek, a city contractor, by steering contracts to the company and manipulating bid parameters so RoadTek would be sure to get the contracts. The complaint included other allegations, including Capela’s sale of his home to the RoadTek owner for $380,000 in 2009 ($80,000 less than what Capela had paid for it four years earlier) and hiring unqualified personnel.
The commission ruled that even though the charges were not groundless, none of the charges amounted to corruption, nor was Geigert wrongfully terminated.
On the job, Capela, 46, was a results-oriented manager who was able to silence the phones, for instance, at a time when residents were complaining about swales and drainage issues. He had the backing of his direct supervisor–Utilities Director Richard Adams–and completed the sort of jobs the city could showcase, such as additional ball fields at the Indian Trails Sports Complex.
“He was a valuable employee who contributed to the city and made a difference in the organization,” Lane said. “He’ll be missed, and we wish him the best.” But she acknowledged that his resignation was a surprise to the administration. Lane said she was not aware of any issues that may have led to the resignation, and that the division is carrying out its work as usual.
Capela was with Palm Coast since Nov. 6, 2006.
Because of the abruptness of the resignation, there’s been no succession plans yet, though Lane mentioned Mike Marinelli, a public works supervisor, as a go-to person in Capela’s absence.
For the utilities department, Capela’s resignation is the second loss of a top staffer in two weeks. In late December, John Moden, the city’s Engineer and Director of the Engineering and Stormwater Department, announced that he was retiring in early February. Moden has overseen the city’s drainage system for 37 years, going back to his years with the ITT Corporation, which built the development.