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State clears city building codes chief, who resigned

Scott Andersen maintains that "personal revenge" was behind a complaint.

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Published May 27, 2007


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ST. PETE BEACH - Eight months after Scott Andersen says he was forced to resign as the city's building codes administrator, a state ethics investigation has apparently cleared him of the charges that led to that resignation.

The Department of Business Professional Regulation has notified Andersen that it has found "no probable cause" to continue to investigate a complaint filed against him in November and is therefore closing the case.

The complaint alleged that Andersen had improperly allowed others to use his signature stamp in approving building plans, and cited news stories of a city investigation of those alleged actions.

"They absolved me of any wrongdoing, " Andersen said.

The city investigation began in August 2006 when Karl Holley, director of community development, notified Andersen that the city was considering disciplinary action against him. Andersen was suspended without pay.

According to Holley, Andersen had told Edgar Nazario to use his official stamp to approve building plans that Andersen had not personally reviewed. Holley contended that he, Nazario and two other city employees had witnessed the "misconduct."

Andersen admits that he became "heated" when he denied Holley's accusations.

The same day he received the notice of a disciplinary investigation, Andersen was advised by the city's human resources administrator, Gary Behnke, that it would be better if he resigned.

Andersen hired an attorney but eventually decided to resign.

An agreement specifying the terms of the resignation was signed by Andersen and City Manager Mike Bonfield.

The city gave Andersen nearly $2, 000 in accrued vacation pay and other benefits. The predisciplinary memo from Holley was removed from Andersen's personnel file. And the city specifically agreed not to pursue any disciplinary action against Andersen.

Andersen, meanwhile, was effectively barred from any taking any legal action against the city, and agreed "not (to) make any critical or derogatory comments in writing, verbally, electronically or otherwise to any person or entity about the city, its elected officials employees, agents or attorneys."

A subsequent letter written by Behnke states that Andersen was "an employee in good standing" when he "voluntarily" resigned in September 2006. The letter also notes that Andersen received an overall rating of "fully meets expectations" in his last annual review.

Andersen maintains that the city's actions against him were motivated by "personal revenge" and that witnesses against him lied.

"I was never unprofessional, aggressive or insubordinate to anyone, " Andersen told state investigators. "I was, however, insulted and disturbed by the way that the city handled this."

After he resigned, he said it took three months to find another job - at significantly less pay than the $60, 000 salary he earned with the city.

He says his applications to other municipal and county governments were rejected without interviews.

"They (St. Pete Beach officials) destroyed my reputation. Everything I worked for has been ruined, " says Andersen, who worked for 20 years as a building development inspector for Pinellas Park.

Andersen now works as an educational facilities inspector for the Hillsborough County public school system. He earns $47, 000.

Nazario, who was at the center of the accusations against Andersen, is now the city's building codes administrator - Andersen's old job.

[Last modified May 26, 2007, 18:40:35]


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