Rec director’s resignation sparks questions

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    DEXTER — The recent resignation of Dexter Recreation Director Jimmy Bell prompted a big turnout at the Sept. 12 Town Council meeting where several of Bell’s supporters questioned the circumstances of his departure.

    But neither the council nor Town Manager Linda Jean-Briggs would say much about Bell’s decision to leave the post.
    Briggs read a statement earlier in the meeting, recapping Bell’s decision to resign. “He was not fired. The decision was made after much deliberation and a thorough investigation,” Briggs said. “As public officials, we are bound by an oath of confidentiality on personnel matters.”
    Briggs said that some in the audience may have “heard a story. I assure you it is not the entire story. If you knew the whole story, you’d understand that the situation was necessary. I have a responsibility to the taxpayers as well as the program the rec department runs.”
    The town manager said that only after conferring with the council did she ask her husband to take over the recreation director’s position on an interim basis. “For the record, he is not paid and has no intention of applying for the position. He is merely trying to assure that during this transition, the children’s programs do not suffer.”
    Rebecca Myers said that she worked with Bell many times on town committees, at the roller skating program and as a chaperone at middle school dances “and I cannot reconcile the man that I know with the allegations he was accused of.” Myers urged town officials to “make sure the next rec director not only be as equally capable (as Bell), but have the full support of the Town Council so this extremely unfortunate situation does not occur again.”
    Council Chairman Peter Haskell agreed that Bell was popular in the community. “There’s not one person on this council who didn’t like Jimmy,” he said. “But it wasn’t our decision – it was his.”
    Carla Tibbetts said she worked with Bell at Dexter Shoe for many years as well as on community functions “and I don’t think you’ll find someone to fill his shoes. I think there should have been more disclosure to those who were affected … not just those who were there at the time.”
    Tim Smith, a recreation football official and grandfather of eight, said that there “has never been anyone who has dealt with our kids with the compassion of Jimmy Bell.” Smith said that today’s young athletes “will not play if someone is going to disrespect them.”
    Bell also declined to give the specific reasons for his departure when contacted last weekend, but confirmed that he resigned voluntarily. “It was my decision. But if the town manager said that she tried to make things work out, I disagree,” Bell said.  “Some things I was accused of simply were not true.”
    Bell has accepted a full-time job as on the custodial staff at SeDoMoCha Middle School in Dover-Foxcroft, but said that he’ll miss working for the town of Dexter. “I enjoyed my time in the community, the kids and the parents I worked with. Let’s just leave it at that,” Bell said.
    In other business, the Dexter Town Council passed an amendment to the “No Swim Zone” ordinance that extends the ban to the area designated by the Dexter Utility District near the intake “no-wake” zone; and around or near the Wassookeag dam.
    Some concern had been expressed at previous meetings that youngsters were diving off the dam, which was considered dangerous because of the variance in water levels.
    Junkyard permits were renewed for Dave Berry, B&K Auto, R&M Graveyard, Poulin Salvage, Woodard’s Garage and Edge of Town Auto.
    The town was unable to fill the cemetery sexton’s position because the preferred candidate reportedly wasn’t happy with the wage offered, Briggs told the council. “Some of you may have heard what he wanted for conditions (of employment),” Briggs said, “and I can’t bring that name forward. I can’t fill that position.”
    There was no discussion over Al Tempesta Jr.’s nomination for code enforcement officer and the council approved his appointment unanimously. This is a half-time position and Tempesta has held the job previously.

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