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Council urged to reject Fred Weber motion to disqualify Campisi

The County Council has been advised to let Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, participate in an upcoming appeal hearing for Fred Weber Inc. — despite the company's attempt to remove him from the meeting.

County Counselor Pat Redington recently recommended that the council deny Fred Weber Inc.'s motion to disqualify Campisi from a meeting in which the council will consider the company's appeal of a Department of Health decision.

The hearing conducted by the Committee of the Whole will take place at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 27, in the County Council Chambers of the Administration Building, 41 S. Central Ave., Clayton. The public will be able to attend, but will have no speaking privileges.

"Weber has cited no law in support of its motion and has pointed to no legislative mandate or court decision which Councilman Campisi is alleged to have violated," Redington stated in a March 29 letter.

Councilmen heard arguments from Fred Weber last November in its efforts to appeal the health department's rejection of the company's application to construct a trash-transfer station at 5219 Baumgartner Road in Oakville.

Fred Weber filed a motion in March to disqualify Campisi from that hearing, alleging that the 6th District councilman would bring an unfair bias to proceedings involving Fred Weber.

"Campisi cannot make a fair and impartial decision about this appeal based solely on the evidence and testimony presented to the Committee of the Whole at its hearing," the motion alleges. "Consequently, Campisi should be disqualified from any further participation on this appeal. Permitting Campisi to participate further in the discussions and the decision of the Committee of the Whole and in any discussions and final decision of the County Council will prejudice the application of F.W. Disposal South, LLC and deny the application, its constitutional rights, including, without limitation, due process of law."

Councilmen referred the matter to Redington, who recently described the motion as "insufficient," referring to Fitzgerald vs. City of Maryland Heights, a case Redington used in the letter to defend her recommendation to councilmen.

Findings from that case reveal, "Administrative decision makers are expected to have preconceived notions concerning policy issues within the scope of their agency's expertise ... Familiarity with the adjudicative facts of a particular case, even to the point of having reached a tentative conclusion prior to the hearing, does not necessarily disqualify an administrative decision maker ..."

Redington asserts, "Unless Councilman Campisi had 'made an unalterable prejudgment of operative adjudicative facts' prior to the hearing, there is no reason for him not to participate in the decision making process."

As a basis for Fred Weber's motion to disqualify Campisi, the company included excerpts from statements made by Campisi that were aired by a St. Louis radio station, criticizing the company for filing a $5 million lawsuit against Tom Diehl.

In February, Fred Weber filed suit against Diehl, an Oakville activist who opposed the presence of trash-transfer stations, for allegedly distributing and creating fliers that referred to the company as "trash terrorists." Diehl is being accused of defamation, libel and slander.

Based on the information in Weber's motion to disqualify, Redington could find no legal wrongdoing in Campisi's statements.

"The comments cited in the motion that are attributed to Councilman Campisi did not even address the matter at issue, but rather touched on Weber's decision to sue certain individuals for defamation," according to the county counselor. "Nothing about Councilman Campisi's disapprobation of that decision suggests that he would be unable to make a decision based on the evidence which was presented to the Committee last November."

Campisi said he wholeheartedly agreed with the Redington's findings and he has every intention to participate in the upcoming appeal hearing.

"They are correct. The people of south county need a voice," Campisi told the Call. "Regardless of what a councilman thinks, to tell you the truth, I don't think a councilman makes decisions based on what he wants ... it's all based on the facts. Since November of 2002 we have had nothing but facts in front of us. The community has seen those facts and is responding to those. The facts speak for themselves and so does the community."

Redington also stated that neither the County Charter nor county ordinances authorize the Committee of the Whole or the council to disqualify one of its members from acting in a pending matter.

Campisi added that Fred Weber wouldn't have filed the motion if he had spoken publicly supporting the company.

"If it were the other way around and people were in favor of it (trash-transfer station), he (Thomas Dunne) would not have any problem with it — but it's not,'' he said.

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