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Oakville residents oppose effort to remove Campisi from hearing

"Insulted" by Fred Weber Inc.'s recent motion to disqualify County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, from an upcoming appeal hearing, Oakville residents spoke out in opposition of the company's efforts last week in Clayton.

Barbi Diehl addressed county councilmen during their March 23 session, chiding Fred Weber Inc. for its attempts to silence south county residents, she said.

Diehl's husband, Tom, recently was sued by Fred Weber Inc.

Tom Diehl faces counts of slander, libel, civil conspiracy and business defamation for his alleged association with fliers that were distributed last December identifying Fred Weber Inc. as "trash terrorists," according to claims made by the company in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also accuses John Does or other unknown "co-conspirators" of the same counts that Diehl faces. The lawsuit seeks $5 million in punitive damages and at least $25,000 in actual damages.

Barbi and Tom Diehl actively and publicly have opposed Fred Weber's applications to construct a trash-transfer station on Baumgartner Road. She told councilmen her husband was out of town on business and could not attend last Tuesday's meeting, but he wanted his opinion to be heard.

"He wanted to speak tonight on the ever-widening circle of speech suppression being forced on the people of south county by the new Fred Weber Inc.," she said.

Fred Weber Inc. on March 23 filed a motion to disqualify "our elected representative John Campisi," she said, from voting on a review of the St. Louis County Department of Health's rejection of a trash-transfer application at 5219 Baumgartner Road.

"Tom believes this contemptible act is an insult to all citizens and elected officials and shows a total disrespect for the millions of individuals who've fought to preserve our freedom," she said. "Is this motion designed to delay the final decision or is it to further intimidate and silence south county?

"To approve this motion would also disenfranchise every resident of the 6th District. How brazen is it for a company to say that citizens cannot communicate with their elected officials on issues of concern within their own community? Whether (Fred Weber Inc. President and CEO) Tom Dunne and his attorneys like it or not, this is the basic principle on which our nation was founded. John Campisi isn't listening to one person. He's listening to the people who put him in office to represent them and the best interests of south county."

She concluded by describing Fred Weber's motion to disqualify Campisi as "despicable" and added that Campisi should be "celebrated" — not criticized — for his efforts to represent his district.

Mark Mosher of Oakville also voiced his concerns over the company's request, despite what he claims, putting himself "at the very real risk of becoming a John Doe and being added to the list of Fred Weber Inc.'s lawsuit."

"They contend that it is unfair for Mr. Campisi to participate because he is biased against their plan," Mosher said. "Evidence of this, they say, can be found in his support for the overwhelming consensus of the people he was elected to represent. Maybe I'm missing something, but I thought that was what he was supposed to do."

Requesting that the people most affected by their plan be denied representation is an insult — not only to the people of Oakville, but also to Campisi, he said.

"It would be just as insulting if I were to suggest that any council members who received large cash campaign contributions from Tom Dunne or any other Fred Weber company should also be disqualified because they could be biased in favor of this project."

Fred Weber is trying to "disenfranchise an entire district," according to Mosher, in an effort to force a trash-transfer station into a community that does not want it.

"If fairness were of any concern to Fred Weber Inc., they would have respected the wishes of the residents of Oakville and discontinued their plans to build this facility," he said. "Instead, they have been relentless, filing application after application despite intense opposition."

He continued, "If fairness were of any concern to Fed Weber Inc., they wouldn't be putting a $5 million price tag on the freedom of speech in their outrageous lawsuit against Tom Diehl and the additional threat of suing anyone else who might get in their way."

Sharon Nelson of Oakville told councilmen she echoed Diehl's and Mosher's concerns, but she also felt Fred Weber's request was a threat to all citizens.

"Shame on Fred Weber for taking legal action to disqualify our councilman John Campisi from listening to his constituents and voting on the health department's objection of their trash-transfer application and re-application and re-application," Nelson said. "This is a direct threat to all of us. It intimidates every one of us — not just us in 6th District, but anybody who reads the newspaper.

"John Campisi is our representative and is our voice in matters, such as this particular one. I can only hope that the judge who entertains this motion to disqualify has enough backbone to throw this out."

Campisi said he appreciated the comments from south county residents who addressed the council on his behalf.

"I'd like to say thank you to my constituents for coming out and speaking on behalf of letting me represent you in the 6th District. I will keep you informed of everything that happens with this waste transfer station.

"I've been informed that in about three weeks, we're going to have the Committee of the Whole (meeting) in regards to the papers that were filed, so I hope to see you all then and thank you very much for coming down tonight,'' the councilman added.

Councilmen referred the issue to County Counselor Pat Redington two weeks ago.

Redington told the Call last Friday she planned on submitting an opinion on the motion to the council by Tuesday — after the Call went to press.

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