Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito, whose relationship with County Administrator Jerry Cameron and others in county government has been rocky since Hurricane Dorian last September, was placed on paid administrative leave this morning pending the resolution of allegations of discrimination and retaliation.
“Effective this morning I’ve placed Fire Chief Don Petito on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a complaint of discrimination and retaliation,” Cameron wrote county commissioners We have hired an outside attorney to conduct the investigation, hopefully it’ll be concluded in an expedient manner with an outcome that serves the best interest of the county.”
Contacted this afternoon, Cameron said by text that he had “no comment on any personnel issues,” and did not respond to questions about the fire department in Petito’s absence. Joe King is the deputy fire chief who would be in charge in petito’s absence.
Petito did not return a call, though he is under a gag order from Cameron: “You are not to have any contact with any Fire Department Personnel or discussion of any departmental issues with anyone other than those approved by Administration while on Administrative Leave,” Cameron wrote him in a June 23 memo. “However, you are expected to be available by phone or otherwise for department business.” (The gag order as written is likely unenforceable, though Petito could pay a price if he violates it and Cameron were to find out.)
The issue is more complicated than the complaint Cameron referred to in his communication with commissioners.
Last September Petito was in a verbal confrontation with Cameron (what Cameron described as a “blow up” at the time) and clashed with Jarrod Shupe, the county’s chief information officer (as in technology, not public information) over the allocation of emergency communication channels during the Hurricane Dorian emergency. The clash was a boiling-over of a recurring conflict between Shupe and Petito and a reflection of Petito’s more tenuous stance in the county since the departure of former administrator Craig Coffey. Both Petito and Shupe were counseled and Petito was placed under a performance plan. At the time, Petito had spoken of retiring last February. He then changed his mind.
Since then, other issues developed, according to people familier with the matter. Petito found himself at the receiving end of a discrimination complaint, which was referred to the county’s insurer. The nature of the complaint is not clear. The county hired an independent lawyer to look into the matter and uncovered various issues. The county then retained an employment lawyer to examine Petito’s employment record. Cameron submitted the resulting reports to Petito so they could discuss them at a later date. The retaliation issue appears to be an allegation resulting from potential interference by the fire chief with an employee who had filed the original complaint. Petito himself is countering with claims of his own.
The county had not responded before this article initially published to public record requests for the documents Cameron referred to in his communication to commissioners, nor with the names of attorneys and firms involved in the Petito case. On Wednesday, the county’s Human Resources director said the attorney handling the case is Cindy Townsend of Bell and Roper, and provided Cameron’s memo to Petito, but not the previous documents investigating his conduct. The director cited a public record exemption that covers ongoing internal investigations. A similar exemption applies to ongoing police or school district investigations. Once the investigation closes, the documents become public records.
According to realtor.com, the E-Section house in Palm Coast Petito and his wife, Heidi Petito–director of general services in the county and at one time one of the directors Cameron considered as his deputy–bought in 2005 was put up for sale before the weekend, and now indicates a pending sale.
Percy's mother says
Aside from this story, I’d like to know why and how so many husband and wife teams end up with government jobs in this county.
John Petito and Heidi Petito (director of general services in Flagler County).
Robert Bossardet principal at BTMS and the other Bossardet’s who work at Flagler County Schools.
Andy Dance and Luci Dance (administrative assistant to the Flagler BOCC).
There are others I’ll not name here (yet).
This is just to name a few. How is it that members of the same family get some of the best county jobs here in Flagler County? I think this is a story that needs to be looked into.
Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.
That is called open Nepotism and what the county legal team does about it,,,? Zit! I also do not agree at these families hired by the county when we have residents with real college credentials like Masters of government administrations graduated Suma Cum Laude from a Florida University and having to commute to Jacksonville or Orlando to be able to get the paid job they deserve…do any of those family members hired by the county at 80,90 or over 100 thousand a year have those credentials..? Sure No! Just hired their buddies which already have a relative making 60,000 to over 100,000 way from our taxes, enough for a single family sustain! We need to stop these FCBOCC from all these unfair practices by going to the ballot box.
Jan Reeger says
I am compelled to state that Andy Dance is NOT employed by Flagler County. He has been an ELECTED School Board Member. He is now running for County Commission. If he is ELECTED, he still will not have been “employed” by the county.
Continuous bickering like kids on the playground the whole damn bunch of ya. Misery loves company freakin drama queens at every level , committees boards commissions its comical at this point. In less than a week I watch it from afar. Good luck gonna need it. smh
Concerned Citizen says
Word of advice.
You don’t cross Jerry Cameron. Who has a shady record and had to leave St. Augustine. and come to Flagler to work. A man so out of touch with this county he has been virtually invisible during this entire pamdemic. You also don’t cross Jarod Schupe. He keeps records and reads all emails. And uses his knowledge of IT to ensure that when musicle chairs are over he will come out on top.
Don Petito has his fair share of issues. And his wife is no saint either. How many people has she been responsible for ruining in this area? That’s what happens when you allow cronisim and families to run local government unchecked.
Our entire government from BOCC down is a giant charlie-foxtrot. Everyone is investigating someone and it stays in-house. With no ramifications ever being dealt with. Meanwhile it’s we the taxpayers who are being screwed
As a tax payer I have made several pleas to the State AG and FDLE for an investigation of corruption in Flagler County. Sadly as only one it falls on deaf ears. We need more people and a local media source with a disdain for the clowns in office to spark a change.
Are we really going to allow this type of behavior at our expense? How much time is wasted on our dime NOT handling county busniess. All of this 3rd grade sand box behavior needs to go. Let’s bring some accountability back to the powers that be.
Just fire the fire chief. What is wrong with you county administrator??
Don’t take that attitude.
Alexander Spiller says
I find it hard to believe that Don is racist or discriminates against anyone. The County currently has some very serious leadership issues and there are a few bad apples who like to use the system to attack people they don’t like. I hope this gets resolved quickly and that we don’t drive any more quality public servants away.
Finally the truth comes out ! The problem is it isn’t just the fire department side . It is also facilities !
Hmmmm ( same family the petitos )
Favoritism discrimination and retaliation should just be the family motto! Come on county commission let’s use this movement and investigate the corruption not every department is bad just 3 and it all ties in to the same people! These are all the same people that On taxpayer dollars That Like to hang out at hijackers for three hours out of the day ! We know who you are !
Well let’s hope that the house petitos put on the market is a sign that they both are putting there tails between there legs and running before they tarnish there work record and tax payers waste their money on a investigation that we know is true !
Let’s pull in some county workers and take some statements
Again just saying
Former employee says
Don’t forget to add manipulation to the Petito resume. They are both at the top of the class when it comes to doing whatever to whomever to get to the top. They both need to be stopped immediately.
We have hired an outside attorney to conduct the investigation. How is this investigation independent when he is getting paid by some of the same people he’s investigating .
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Don Petitos trained rescue crew saved my life. I pray he will continue to be my hero and not leave us
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Shupe has screwed up the County Website . Gone are the days when you could cluck on your inbox and Jude check Agenda or Agedna with backup. Mr Shupe has created a mandatory 5 clicks in the most unfriendly and full of old news and reports showing as current
He needs to.go… he does not consider nor care to be reader friendly. What he did last year by changing emergency codes without our fire chief approval proves his arrogance..lack.of common sense and consisting of unfriendly ..uncaring confusing website. He Hadeed need to.go. Both Don Petito and Heidi Petito have our interests at heart
Jane, why do you continue to attack Shupe every chance you get. Seems like you have a ax to grind with him. 108k other county residents aren’t complaining, maybe it’s something you are doing? Maybe you are being lazy? Maybe you should lay off the green for a bit. You stand in front of the commission and chew them out on a constant basis, for what! To get your rocks off? Bored maybe, find something to do with your time besides attack government employees. At least you were right about Don and his wife, they are good people. Find a hobby?!
The first thing that crosses my mind after reading this article is where are the facts? Is Don Petito a public figure and subject to being outed if something was done wrong, yes…however there is NOTHING in this article that explains the situation in entirety. If the facts are not there YET all this is a smear campaign and palace intrigue. As usual Jerry Cameron and the County gives just enough information for the public to take a position one side or the other.
If the investigation truly finds Don Petito did something wrong and should be fired, he should be fired! However the County has some pretty suspect “outside” lawyers who will find that angle to support their position. This should be interesting. If Petito is cleared of wrong doing, watch out Flagler County!
I bet you all employees of Flagler County walk on egg shells and with their head on a swivel wondering who is going to stab them in the back!
Kenneth P. Nasif says
Is it me or what? Having moved here recently from Boston, I cannot comprehend the volume of corruption and the associated accusations of corruption within the otherwise idyllic city of Palm Coast. Such a relatively new and growing community located in such a calm and picturesque area of Florida is in stark contrast to alleged FBI investigations of its city officials, community swimming pool owners jailed for fraud, city chief building inspector resigning after being investigated for accepting bribes, public school officials resigning following investigations of criminal activities , others resigning or under investigation for discrimination or retaliation, etc, etc. And I thought I was escaping corruption when I left Massachusetts…………..go figure!
Have they hired Tallahasse hawk high rate attorney Herron against Pettito too?as they are not telling which firm. Why do we have high paid Hadeed then for? Just as always wasting our hard earned tax dollars. Suit happy commissioners and their manager with “other peoples monies” the tax payers! When it comes about the incumbent Flagler County commissioners and their opposition running against them I will ask them all what about stop wasting our hard earned dollars by witch hunting in court those that should have had whistle blower protection instead and stop the FCBOCC from destroying their finances, their government retirement and their honesty, good work performance in office and their lives, just because they uncovered wrong doing and brought it into the open. One of the cases of our former SOE defending herself in the courts for the past 6.5 years: https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fcdn.fbsbx.com%2Fv%2Ft59.2708-21%2F104290256_647913332604916_6225519551863958404_n.pdf%2FSentencing-7-28-2020-at-2-pm.pdf%3F_nc_cat%3D110%26_nc_sid%3D0cab14%26_nc_ohc%3DRp-PckVMW_gAX_19dI-%26_nc_ht%3Dcdn.fbsbx.com%26oh%3De13079b9c727e444b32635898b896fa4%26oe%3D5EE98B92%26dl%3D1%26fbclid%3DIwAR0EPVjUNcnLJMatOq7Svc8wE-g2Cbketql2PBJdviaHJdPdAMimjy-J3gk&h=AT2qTRVKx3SLeLp59Ojm1wGU_VOXkCHfDtVY0X8p8b6ne0N9ZrMheXTOXFgNjzJEDkF8wrTz94E6l4uABp–vtz9VhP9jEUWJKl_rcvd-HCN9S8W92MK-rXKCvaxqrz0yAKWLMkwq5Q4Xrhp3Ylkpg. Lets attend via Zoom the sentencing in July 28 at 2 PM and ask the judge to dismiss or clemency as, at least to me, is just an unfair political witch hunt. The local government political bickering so costly to our hard earned taxes never stops and is very irresponsible.