Published Thursday, May 17, 2012 | 3:32 p.m.
Updated Thursday, May 17, 2012 | 8:12 p.m.
Work on entertainer Wayne Newton’s museum in Las Vegas has stalled because of disputes between Newton and his partner, a new lawsuit says.
CSD LLC, the company that teamed with Newton on the attraction, and two related firms filed suit Wednesday in Clark County District Court against Newton and two of his family members.
The plaintiffs charged that after the development companies invested more than $50 million in “Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah” project, including acquiring Newton’s 39.5-acre estate for $19.5 million, the project has been derailed because Newton and his family have interfered with and frustrated the development plans.
An attorney for Newton, J. Stephen Peek at the law firm Holland & Hart LLP in Las Vegas, disputed the allegations Thursday and said delays with the project are the fault of CSD, headed by businessman Steven Kennedy of Blanco, Texas.
Peek also said Wednesday’s suit includes false allegations of sexual harassment against Newton being leveled by a woman represented by Gloria Allred, the feminist attorney in Los Angeles known for representing plaintiffs in high-profile discrimination and harassment cases.
Attorneys for Kennedy and his firm CSD couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Allred also couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The CSD suit placed the blame for delays in opening the museum squarely on Newton and his family.
“Plaintiffs firmly believe that these actions are calculated to ensure that the museum never opens,” the lawsuit says.
For instance, the suit says, Newton and his family refuse to move out of Newton’s mansion at the Casa de Shenandoah estate now owned by CSD.
Under museum development plans, the development companies agreed to put up $2 million for building a new home for the Newtons on the compound that would not be part of the public tourist attraction.
“The mansion is to be one of the project’s main attractions available for tours by museum patrons,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants have failed to provide their cooperation in allowing the construction of the new residence to commence and refuse to move from the mansion.”
Peek, however, said it’s CSD that has failed to build a museum for the attraction and has failed to build a home for the Newton family.
“This is nothing more than a business dispute between Mr. Kennedy and the Newtons,” Peek said, asserting Kennedy has failed to properly manage the project.
Under plans approved by Clark County, the tourist attraction at the compound at Sunset and Pecos roads would include a museum with memorabilia from Newton’s entertainment career, a theater, zoo, car museum and a Newton-themed car wash.
The developers say in the suit that Newton also has refused to catalog and turn over his personal property and memorabilia needed to operate the museum.
The suit also says Newton has refused to remove unnecessary horses from the property. The developers claim fewer than 20 horses are required for the “museum experience” — yet Newton has 55 horses there.
In addition, the suit claims a young woman hired by the developers to care for and train the horses endured “constant sexual harassment by Mr. Newton and a hostile and intimidating work environment created by Mr. Newton’s barn manager.”
The suit says she resigned because Newton’s conduct toward her was “so sexually reprehensible and intimidating.”
“Ultimately, she was driven from the project and has now threatened litigation against the parties,” the suit says.
The suit includes excerpts from a letter the woman’s attorney wrote to the parties complaining about the alleged harassment. Peek said that attorney is Allred.
Finally, the CSD suit says, Newton has a “number of large vicious dogs that he allows to roam freely on the property,” that the dogs have bitten people more than a dozen times, that they must be removed before the museum can open but that Newton refuses to do so.
Peek, however, said the suit included a lot of “salacious lies” and that “the truth will come out in court.”
The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring Newton and his family members to stop interfering with the project, to vacate the mansion, to remove unneeded horses, to remove the dogs, to turn over the property and memorabilia needed to run the museum and to reimburse the development companies for unspecified damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.
The suit asserts legal claims of fraud and other counts, charging Newton and his family members falsely had promised the developers “it was their strong desire to develop the property into the museum and that they would give their complete and sincere support in cooperating to ensure that the project would be completed.”
In a statement issued by a publicist for Newton, the entertainer also denied the sexual harassment allegations.
"The sexual harassment accusation contained in the complaint is completely fabricated by a terminated female barn employee. There is absolutely no basis in fact, and the attempt to obtain financial gain was previously unconditionally rejected by Mr. Newton," the statement said.
Newton's statement also disputed charges in the lawsuit that animals at Newton's ranch were poorly cared for.
"Wayne Newton has been named the top breeder of Arabian horses in the world and has received accolade after accolade for his Arabian horse herd. Rulers of other countries have purchased Wayne Newton-bred-and-owned Arabian horses. Through the years, thousands of people have had the great pleasure of visiting Wayne Newton’s home and seeing his animals. To allege that the condition of Casa de Shenandoah and his treatment of animals has been anything less than exemplary is false and absurd," the statement said.
The Newton statement also accused Kennedy of "failure to provide financial statements for a year and a half, failure to obtain building permits prior to construction, which caused the Fire Department to shut down construction on the Visitor Welcome Center, failure to consult with Wayne Newton, failure to construct proper buildings for the health of the animals and for the viewing pleasure of the public, failing to build the Museum and Performance Theater, constant bullying and threatening of employees, spending exorbitant amounts of money and failing to hire a marketing director and operations team."
Newton noted that Geneva Clark, former common-law wife of Kennedy and a 50 percent investor in one of his CSD companies, didn't consent to the lawsuit — something confirmed by Clark.
"He is wrongly accusing the Newtons and mismanaging his role of leadership. I will not condone nor support his actions or anyone who is supporting him with this lawsuit," Clark said in her own statement.