Odenwald Critical Of Campisi's 3 Absences


Claims Campisi's missed votes on Lambert smoking ban has essentially killed the bill


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December 15, 2006
St. Louis County Councilman Kurt Odenwald claims that Councilman John Campisi's recent absences from three consecutive council meetings are more than just coincidences.

As a result of Campisi's no-show, Odenwald said his bill to ban smoking at Lambert Field, legislation co-sponsored by Campisi, is essentially dead. The Shrewsbury councilman said he had the four votes necessary to pass the bill — he and three other Republicans on the county council — but he lacked a majority for passage when Campisi failed to show up for the Nov. 21, Nov. 28 and Dec. 5 meetings.

"I had four confirmed supporters, but John has been conveniently absent," Odenwald said. "He should have had the guts to say 'Kurt, I changed my mind, I'm not going to vote for this.' Instead, he misses three consecutive meetings. He not just misses the meetings, but he did not give any explanation for his absences except to say 'I'm very busy.'"

Odenwald, who lost his re-election bid to State Rep. Barbara Fraser, D-University City, in November, will exit the council after the Dec. 19 meeting, as will fellow-Republican Skip Mange. Odenwald's smoking ban will remain on the agenda, but would have to be reintroduced by the new council. It's not clear whether that will happen.

Odenwald said there has been "lingering animosity" between he and Campisi dating back to Odenwald's support of a lawsuit against St. Louis County challenging a council vote which allowed for construction of the Gravois Creek housing development. Located in Campisi's district, the subdivision was to be built on Busch-family property on the south side of Gravois Road across from Grant's Farm. The developers have since pulled out of the project.

Campisi voted in favor of zoning changes to allow for the development. Odenwald, whose district covers Grantwood Village on the north side of Gravois Road, voted against it. Queried whether his no-shows during the smoking ban votes constituted political payback against Odenwald, Campisi desccribed such an assertion as "totally ridiculous."

Campisi said he took a new job about a month ago, and that the demands and long hours of learning that job forced him to miss meetings. He described as "completely false" claims by Odenwald that he intentionally "sabotaged" the smoking ban bill.

"I've been in the restaurant business my entire life, and I owned my own business," Campisi said. "For the first time in my life I had to put myself on the market. When I took this new job, I had some orientation, with some long days to put in so as to get going on this job."

Campisi claims that he informed Odenwald of exactly where he was, why he had missed a previous week's meeting, and why he would be absent from upcoming council meetings.

"I spoke to Odenwald before the second meeting, and he was informed as to why I was taking off," Campisi said.

Odenwald maintains he did not receive an explanation from Campisi in regard to his absences. He said he learned of Campisi's new job as a grant writer only after reading about it in a newspaper article.

"He did not show up for anything, day or evening. I can't remember any councilman doing that in my 17 years on the council," Odenwald said.

Campisi no longer owns Mama Campisi's Restaurant, located on The Hill area of St. Louis. For the past month he has been working as a grant writer for Applied Scholastics International. ASL, with its headquarters located in Spanish Lake, trains teachers to improve their effectiveness in the classroom. The services are based on the works of the late L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology.

The Association for Better Living and Education International (ABLE), under the new ownership name of Social Betterment Properties International, will appear before the county's revenue and personnel committee, perhaps as early as Dec. 19, seeking real and personal property tax exemption for Applied Scholastics for 2004 and forward. Campisi, who serves on that committee, said he will disqualify himself from any discussions on the matter.

ABLE already has tax exempt status from the county. It is reapplying, according to Campisi, because of the name change.

In September of 2005, as a member of the revenue and personnel committee, Campisi supported the recommendation of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization to deny ABLE's request for tax exemption from 2003 forward. According to county transcripts, he argued that "tutoring schools" had not been granted tax exemptions during the time he had served on the committee.

When the matter was appealed to the full council, however, Campisi voted in April 2006 with the majority to allow for the exemption.

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