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FBI Agents Interview 2 Palm Coast Employees In Inquiry Over Tony Capela Issues

| January 23, 2015

Public Works' main offices are on Utility Drive off of Old Kings Road, but the FBI interviews took place at the department's streets division on U.S. 1. (© FlaglerLive)

Public Works’ main offices are on Utility Drive off of Old Kings Road, but the FBI interviews took place at the department’s streets division on U.S. 1. (© FlaglerLive)

Two FBI agents interviewed two Palm Coast city government directors on Wednesday in an inquiry related to the tenure of Tony Capela, the former street superintendent who resigned abruptly on Jan. 9 after eight years on the job.

Capela’s tenure had been bracketed by high praise from the administration and city council members for his efficiency, but he was also the subject of internal and external inquiries and investigations over his demeanor at work and his cozy relationships with a recurring city contractor. None of the investigations found actionable issues.

On Wednesday, the agents briefly interviewed Richard Adams, the director of public works (the city’s largest department, which includes the streets division), and interviewed at longer length Renee Shevlin, the public works operations manager Capela had hired. Adams was with Shevlin at the beginning of the interview, then left the room so the agents could interview Shevlin alone. That interview lasted 90 minutes.

The interviews took place at the U.S. 1 office of public works, where the streets division is located.

The FBI agents did not examine any city records or seize any city property or documentation, as far as Cindi Lane, the city’s communications director, knew.

“The agents’ questions were the same types of inquiries that have previously been looked into by three state agencies, so that all centered around Tony Capela,” Lane said Friday afternoon.

Lane was referring to inquiries by the State Commission on Ethics, the State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Public Employee Relations Commission known as PERC. The most thorough investigation was conducted by the ethics commission and completed in March 2013. While finding that claims of impropriety against Capella were not groundless, the ethics commission ruled that they did not rise to the level of corruption, and dismissed the complaint.

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,” the commission’s advocate concluded. “It appears city management was complacent and/or in agreement with [Capela]’s actions.”

The city also investigated Capela’s purchase of a home from the owner of a company the city contracted (RoadTek, a road construction contractor, whose owner is a sister-in-law of Capela’s) and his taking part in contract evaluations involving the company, but found no improprieties there.

The complaints against Capela were brought by a former Palm Coast employee at the streets division,  Terry Geigert, who also filed complaints against City Manager Jim Landon and Human Resources Director Wendy Cullen, both of which the ethics commission dismissed.

“The city has nothing to hide and the city will fully cooperate with any inquiry, any investigation. The allegations that were made in the past and that are apparently being looked into now are not true,” Lane said.

What is certain, however, is the the FBI does not investigate lawbreaking of state laws–that’s left to state and local agencies like the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the local sheriff’s office and State Attorney’s office–but of federal laws. Those include, for example, white-collar crimes such as fraud or money laundering, cyber crimes or organized crime. The FBI would not be looking into matters that have been looked into previously, if those matters entailed only state statutes or ethical matters.

“So we have been through this a few times now, and it’s been determined again and again that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the city or any of its employees,” Lane said, then added: “Although questions were the same, there was one new question, and that new question was related to why Tony Capela resigned from the city. That was the only new thing that came up.”

Capela submitted a one-line resignation letter, offering no explanation, as he announced his resignation earlier this month. The resignation was immediately accepted. At the time, the city had only plaudits for Capela, and said he would be missed.

“When he resigned, there were no allegations against him within the city,” Lane said. “He did not leave under a cloud, there was no investigation, there was nothing improper happening prior to him leaving. He had been talking for quite a while about resigning, and that was the day that he decided to do it. In fact, when he talked to Richard Adams about leaving, he said that he wanted to work the day out, and Richard offered him the option of staying, said if he wanted to give a notice, if he wanted to stay a couple of weeks. It was Tony’s choice.”

Lane confirmed reports of a Capela confrontation with Cullen, the HR director with whom he did not particularly get along, though not on the day Capela resigned. “He had about a week before had a difficult conversation with Wendy over a policy issue,” Lane said. “But what we’re saying is that we don’t know why Tony  chose to resign that day. We have no indication that that’s what led to it. It may have been a factor. But it wasn’t like he had never talked about resigning. He had been talking with his colleagues for quite a while, saying that he was not planning to stay with the city long-term, for ever.”

Asked if there had been any additional FBI interviews, Lane said there’d been “none that I am aware of.” Landon has not been interviewed by the FBI.

Three city council members interviewed during the day by a reporter, including Mayor Jon Netts—who was vacationing overseas– were unaware that the FBI had met with city staff. “It’s news to me,” Netts said. “I have no clue.” Steven Nobile and Jason DeLorenzo echoed the same response.

Landon informed the council by email at close to 4 p.m. Friday of the FBI’s interviews, saying, “the FBI was contacted by someone re the same old rumors and allegations about Tony Capela from years ago. They then contacted the media and bloggers to spread the rumors.”

The FBI’s inquiry, of course, was no rumor.

Contacted in early afternoon, a spokesman for the FBI later said he could not provide information about the case. “Typically, the FBI does not confirm or deny investigations per Department of Justice policy,” Jon Fletcher wrote.

Capela’s position is currently vacation, with Adams assuming Capela’s role.

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14 Responses for “FBI Agents Interview 2 Palm Coast Employees In Inquiry Over Tony Capela Issues”

  1. Tom Jacks says:

    The FBI does not investigate ethics, it does criminal investigations. Once again this city manager thinks the residents of this city are stupid and uneducated.

  2. NortonSmitty says:

    So suddenly a relatively new company owned by the Street Superintendents Sister-in-Law starts getting road contracts from him and nobody in the City government thought to look into until the F’in FBI shows up? Very curious. Stock up on popcorn, this looks like these fireworks are going to be fun to watch!

    [Note: The city and state ethics commission looked into the matter and cleared him in 2013.–FL]

    • Bill says:

      So, the city and state ethics commission cleared him. That is because the dstates ethics laws are a joke. The FBI is looking at this under “Honest Services” statutes. They have used those previously to convict other public officials in this state who have been cleared by the Ethics Commission.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Of course Landon would deny any wrong doing….he is involved in every aspect of the operations of the city. its his style to never admit to anything and spin the press to make the public think everything is always peacy and that he is working for the people. This employee wouldn’t resign without giving reasone unless he was running from something. Cindi Lane is a spokes person to be the protector of the people that should be talking. Dont think for a minute that she isn’t being told what to say. the FBI doesn’t come in like this unless there is a valid reason. They don’t just come in and investigate based on a citizen making a complaint….someone knows something. It’s about time the corruption in Flagler County is dealt with! What does Tony have to say about all this? Why did he quit his job? To say he quit because he didn’t get along with someone in HR is outragious.

  4. wishIcouldmove says:

    WOW, this place is definitely nuts, now the FBI is in town. We have buildings being bought by the county for 2x’s their value, city halls being built against the vote of the residents, we got ethics complaints against sheriffs, commissioners and city directors, we have plagiarism, we had SOE controversies, county manager raises, bankrupt commissioners, red light cameras, dilapidated water treatment plant purchase, no jobs,the 2nd highest unemployment in the state and the list goes on and on! Welcome to PalmJoke!

  5. karma says:

    Tony has affected a lot of peoples life’s. My wife always quotes Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
    Sounds like you may have a lot of time to think about just that. I hope justice is finally served on you.

  6. confidential says:

    Was time!! The waste of taxpayers monies and utilities reserve funds to benefit the few other than utilized for what is intended is pathetic in this county and its cities. They use our Taxpayers funds reserves to buy derelict real estate or build before its time luscious infrastructure for already wealthy developers, bankers and or significant local professionals and then raise our utilities rates for lack of those very wasted funds needed instead for repair or replace decaying existing storm water and sewer infrastructure. The smell of sewer in this city became the usual with rain or construction given the decaying and insufficient sewer system. Very peculiar that just recently Mr. Moden the utility engineer “retired” almost at the same time that Capela abruptly resigned.
    The state ethic commission is a real joke on its findings; look at commissioner Revels outcome. She voted for the purchase of his business associates derelict hospital at least 3 to 4 the times of the appraised value and then she got 3 times the loan increase she had with her associate bank head and owner of the hospital!! If was me doing that, I would be in jail.
    As a city and Flagler County taxpayer I am sick and tired of seeing our hard earned local tax funds being dilapidated to benefit the few while our infrastructure is caving in and our utility rates and taxes across the board increase!
    All this projects including the ridiculous un needed widening of Palm Coast Parkway …just to Florida Park Drive..? What a joke just to benefit the Palm Harbor developers and because looks good in the administrators resume. The PC Parkway should have been widened in the future when the Hammock Dunes bridge will, after the state traffic county will justify the widening. Not now!
    Typical waste of taxpayers funds o benefit developers. Same with Boulder Rock land purchase and costly infrastructure constructed…all with our utility reserve miss used funds and maybe against the law. Now we endure the rate increases and the threat that if we do not like the increases we will have to continuo the enjoyable smell of sewers. Was time that DOJ shoes around here….hope they would take a look also at the micromanagement and intended interfierence of our local elections by the current seating local government versus the resigned and honest SOE!

  7. Ray Thorne says:

    I hope they don’t stop there and that they look into all ethics complaints we’ve read about that other officials are involved in and take action toward any and all criminal behavior discovered. We should not stand for the types of behavior from our tax salaried officials that do not have our best interest at heart.

  8. Questionable says:

    Most places, especially public and with the number of employees that the City has, have an employee handbook/manual that specifies how much time an employee is to provide to the employer prior to leaving employment. This is especially true for management positions.

    We all grouse about leaving our jobs. You only leave in a cloud of dust if the posse is after ya!

    • Just sayin says:

      The city council gave Landon free range to change the employee manual as he say fit. This did not help the employees boots on the ground employees at all. Thus the overwhelming union support vote in 2014.

      City council hired Landon should they be questioned as well?

  9. m&m says:

    The city council and manager should be invesigated also..

  10. recent arrival says:

    Now I know why the US Government deposits all those mafia informants here, with all the corruption in the county government they fit right in.

  11. Just sayin says:

    Criminal not civil investigation, How’d did it get this far? No charges are present but investigation makes it interesting.

    Should city council be on high alert?

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