Two FBI agents showed up at the streets division of Palm Coast City offices Jan. 21 asking questions about former streets superintendent Tony Capela, who resigned suddenly Jan. 9 after working with the city for eight years.
The agents spoke with Public Works Operations Manger Renee Shevlin and Public Works Director Richard Adams, city spokeswoman Cindi Lane said Jan. 23.
“Their questions were along the same lines as the questions that have come up within the past, centering around Tony Capela,” Lane said. “Things that have been looked into by state agencies in the past. We’ve been through this a few times.”
In May 2013, the Florida Commission of Ethics investigated claims by a former city employee, Terry Geigert, alleging that Capela had showed favoritism to a city contracting company that was owned by one of his friends, and that he then created a hostile work environment for Geigert when she questioned the alleged favoritism. Geigert was fired in 2010. The Ethics Commission cleared Capela.
Lane didn’t specify what specific allegation the FBI agents seemed to be looking into, and an FBI spokesman said Friday afternoon that the FBI does not confirm or deny investigations, as a matter of policy.
"We don’t really know officially what the FBI is doing," she said. "In the past, when the state came, they would always pay a visit and say, 'Hey, this is what they’re doing.' We don’t know if it’s a formal investigation."
But, she said, the FBI agents asked about why Capela quit. Capela’s one-sentence resignation letter did not list a reason.
“When Tony quit there were no allegations against him,” Lane said. “He left under no cloud. He had been talking about leaving for quite a while; he had said to his employees that one of these days, he was going to leave.”
“Tony Capela was not invited to resign.” City Manager Jim Landon said. “Tony Capela has been indicating he was going to resign for months, if not years.”
"Tony made a difference here and did a great job for us," Landon said. "He turned a department around that was one of our weaker links in our organization, and now it’s one of our stronger ones."
But Lane said Capela had had a "difficult converstion" with the city's human resources director, Wendy Cullen, not long before he offered his resignation. And Capela did, Landon said, have "a reputation" at the city.
While the state investigated ethics complaints brought by Geigert, the city's human resource department had launched an internal investigation of Capela, finding that his subordinates agreed the work environment in streets and drainage was "difficult.”
"Recurring themes during our conversations included terms such as ‘belittled,’ ‘humiliated,’ ‘intimidated,’ and the like. ... Each reported that Mr. Capela would yell and swear at his subordinates," the report said.
"Did Tony disagree with some of our HR policies that we have to deal with here in our govenrment beurocracy? Yes," Landon said. "Him and a lot of other supervisors don’t like to follow those rules."
But, Landon said, "He was not aksed to resign. Absolutely was not forced to resign. It was not a surprise that he did resign."
Capela is one of two high-level city public works employees to announce his resignation in recent weeks.
The city’s engineer and director of the Engineering and Stormwater Department, John Moden, also recently announced that he will resign, effective Feb. 6. Moden had worked with ITT beginning in 1977, then worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, then the Palm Coast Community Service Corp. from 1991 until 2005, when he was hired by the city.
"I’m conferring with a variety of our management staff and employees about some options, and weighing all those, and hope to make a decision in the next 30 days with Capela and John Moden’s positions," Landon said.
—Brian McMillan contributed.