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Crystal River building official to retire early

City building official John Henning, the target of recent criticism by residents and other officials over his job performance, on Wednesday told his boss he would retire next month, two months ahead of schedule.

Henning, 69, had planned to retire at the end of January, but in a letter to City Manager Merv Waldrop Wednesday, he moved that date to his anniversary date of Nov. 20. The 15-year employee said little in his letter other than that he had "mixed emotions" about making the move.

He could not be reached for comment, but he recently said he didn't understand what all the fuss was about. He said he thinks he has been doing his job throughout his time with the city.

"It's kind of sad, but we knew it was coming," Waldrop said. "I feel like he was just getting tired of all the hassle."

The public difficulties flared up more than a month ago when a resident, Scott Morrison, accused Henning of favoritism and of not doing his job when Henning failed to stop the construction of an unpermitted boat lift on a lot adjacent to Morrison's.

Weeks later, despite Morrison's objections over the closeness of the structure to his property and the failure of the lift owner to submit project plans, Henning issued an after-the-fact permit.

The case is now in court.

At the end of September, more criticism came from former councilman Earnest Olsen who told the council that Henning wasn't issuing permits in a timely manner, wasn't ensuring that building codes were enforced and was spending city time doing personal business.

Council members, Waldrop and Mayor Curtis Rich all acknowledged at that meeting they had heard the complaints before. And Henning's personnel file indicates that, over the years, he had had some problems with organizing and with keeping up with his volume of work.

"He would have liked to have left with his name not under a cloud," Waldrop said. "But most of the community still holds him in high esteem."

Henning's early departure means the city can begin searching immediately for a building inspector. Henning's job was to be phased out in the new budget and a certified building inspector was to be hired to take over many of his duties.

City Council will be asked Monday to accept Henning's early retirement.

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