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Tom Campenni: Stuart Commissioner described as 'bully,' accused of violating city charter

Posted at 11:19 PM, Jun 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 08:59:05-04

Some employees of the city of Stuart consider Commissioner and former Mayor Tom Campenni to be a “bully.”

Others say he abuses his power and intimidates employees.

These are some of the findings in an 11-page investigative report released Thursday by Coral Gables attorney, Robert Norton.

Norton was hired last month by the city of Stuart to look into Campenni’s past after a complaint was filed by an employee claiming Campenni might be guilty of age discrimination.

The employee, Sam Amerson, said Campenni discouraged him from applying for the city manager’s position, because Campenni wanted someone ‘younger’ for the job.

An investigator with the city found Campenni did not intend to discriminate with his comments. Campenni still resigned as mayor and returned to his position as a commissioner.

But Norton’s investigation found four other employees claimed they were also discouraged from applying for the position. They said Campenni already voiced his support for Stuart Police Chief David Dyess.

Other findings bring Campenni’s character into question.

Employees told Norton he would call them “third rate,” or “country bumpkins” not fit to do their jobs if they were in a place like New York, which is where Campenni is from.

Norton also wrote Campenni threatened to get certain employees fired.

Campenni is also accused of bypassing the city manager, and giving direct orders to city employees and department heads, something he is not authorized to do, according to Norton, under the city charter.

The owner of a Stuart business, Terra Fermata, is listed by name in the investigation.

Norton found that Campenni ordered the city to find noise violations at Terra Fermata, because Campenni “has it out for the owner,” Ron Hart.

The report continues that when code enforcement officers did not find any violations, Campenni accused them of taking money from Hart. Campenni later apologized, Norton wrote.

“I no longer feel like I was the only person who felt bullied by him,” Hart said. “In some ways, it was vindicating.”

Campenni’s attorney, David B. Earle, sent a letter to the city in response to the investigation.

Earle wrote that Campenni’s heart is in the right place. Earle continues, “the derogatory charges leveled in the report by anonymous sources regarding his interactions with staff are highly suspected, and are not objectively supported by facts developed over a period of time. Indeed, it is truly unfortunate that Mr. Norton relies on several statements purportedly made before Mr. Campenni even took office. It would be a shame if unattributed allegations interfere with the good work being undertaken by this Commissioner.”

City Attorney Michael Mortell believes the report was completed with integrity.

“I have to put my faith and trust in the investigator and believe that he was not biased. He met with 17 to 20 people and he has drawn these conclusions,” Mortell said.

Campenni denied an opportunity to be interviewed for the record in the investigation.

“He’ll probably need to tell the public exactly what happened and give his side of the story in order to move forward from this,” Mortell said.

This investigation is expected to be brought up at the next commission meeting Monday.