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Stuart commissioners to discuss demoting Mayor Tom Campenni following age discrimination complaint

Posted at 11:26 PM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-22 23:47:03-04

STUART, Fla. -- Could the city of Stuart be looking at its third mayor in just four months?

“That would probably be a record in Stuart,” according to City Attorney Mike Mortell.

City commissioners could vote to demote Mayor Tom Campenni from his current position following an age discrimination complaint filed against Campenni by a city employee.

Monday, commissioners voted to hold a meeting on Friday morning to discuss reorganizing city leadership.

Campenni was appointed mayor in February after former mayor Eula Clarke resigned from the position, and remained a city commissioner. She was scrutinized for making offensive comments toward law enforcement.

“Im deeply, deeply disappointed, and I can’t believe we’re here again,” said commissioner Troy McDonald.

This month, Public Works Director Sam Amerson, filed a complaint stating he told Campenni he was interested in applying for the city manager’s position, once it is posted.

Amerson said Campenni discouraged him from applying and told Amerson that he  would not support him, but instead, would vote for “a younger guy with fresh ideas.”

“There’s no time when you’re choosing a city manager that you want someone to feel they’re not being chosen or reviewed because of their age,” Mortell said.

Amerson said he filed the complaint because he wants to be sure the selection process for the next city manager is fair, and focused on skills and qualifications.

In a letter to the city manager, Campenni told some of his side of the story.

Campenni wrote that he told Amerson, “I was looking for someone who would not consider this position a retirement job,” and “that I wanted someone with fresh ideas.”

Campenni offered to refrain from voting for the position if Amerson applies for the job and makes it to the voting stage of the selection process.

The investigation concluded it does not appear Campenni intended to discriminate based on age.

City Attorney, Mike Mortell, said that does not make a difference.

“We have a  duty to protect all of the applicants and employees from actual discrimination. Whether someone intends to do it or not is irrelevant,” Mortell said.

The investigation recommended that Campenni does not participate in any part of the city manager selection process.

“That way, even if it’s just a misunderstanding, both sides can feel comfortable that that’s not going to occur,” Mortell said.

The investigative report said Mayor Campenni stated his desire to foster a selection process that is fair and equitable to all candidates.