JUPITER ISLAND, Fla. - The 500,000-gallon personal aquatic complex going in at singer Celine Dion’s home, which has drawn scorn from neighbors, may have sunk the job of the town’s code enforcement officer.
Jeff Newell, the upper class municipality’s director of planning and code enforcement officer, who received two recent reprimands regarding his oversight of the construction at Dion’s home, has agreed not to work for the town anymore.
Newell will continue to be paid through Sept. 22 for the $105,231 a year job he has held since 2005, but his last day of work was June 21, according to town paperwork.
The separation agreement signed by Newell states that “I acknowledge that this agreement shall forever resolve all issues and matters that may exist between the town and me.”
Newell was not available for comment Thursday.
On Thursday, Town Manager Gene Rauth would say only that Newell and the town “had a parting of the ways.”
The town gives its planning director and other top management some personal discretion to make approvals regarding work by private property owners on their own land. However, the managers are expected to use some common sense when making approvals, Rauth said.
“It’s private property, but this is a serious impact. Look at any of the articles, it’s an impact to the island,” Rauth said of Dion’s pool. “Your not talking putting a slide or a diving board in, you’re talking about something much bigger.”
In the separation agreement, Newell agreed to refrain from criticizing the town operations “or its treatment of me.”
On May 19, Rauth wrote in a reprimand that Newell’s verbal approval of a 500,000-gallon pool system equipped with water slides and a “lazy river” feature on Dion’s 5.7-acre Jupiter Island property violated town code and “is further seen as behavior that is not in the best interest of the town.”
“You have shown very poor judgment in granting the approval and thus creating an adverse impact on the adjacent properties and the town as a whole,” Rauth continued.
Neighbors have been critical of the pool as hurting the environment as it requires six deep wells to draw fresh water.
On June 7, Rauth reprimanded Newell for going on vacation before delivering a “cease and desist” letter regarding where workers on Dion’s property were parking. The town was receiving complaints from neighbors about where the workers were parking.
“Only after my repeated questioning on the matter and my specific questions to you about whether or not you delivered the letter, did you inform me that you had not delivered the letter,” Rauth wrote.
Rauth said Thursday the town isn’t going to reconsider the approval of the water complex at Dion’s home.
“We have stepped back and reviewed what was approved and why it was approved, and the town is prepared to move,” Rauth said. “It’s built. We’ve reviewed the situation. Our legal counsel has looked at the terms in which it was approved, and the town is going to look to the future.”
The city hopes to replace Newell by Oct. 1. The deadline to apply for the job was July 16, and more than 120 applications have been submitted.
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