Detractors and distracters make claims that the drama surrounding Gunstock are driven by my desire for control of the Area. This nonsense is just screeching by the outrage mob. My desire is simple; good governance.
When commissioner Gallagher resigned I hoped that action might smooth out the turbulence of governance at the Gunstock Area Commission (GAC). It was not that Gallagher was the cause of the problems, but it provided an opportunity to replace him with an individual whom would not be influenced by power seekers.
With Gallagher’s resignation the position opening was advertised in the local newspaper seeking applicants. Shortly after the advertisement started running, I received an email from the county administrator.
Noting this error I publicly acknowledged the error in a letter to the editor of The Laconia Daily Sun.
incorrectly states the position will be a five year term. This is my error. While the delegation has in the past filled a vacancy for a five year term, the enabling statute is clear that the vacancy is to be filled for the remainder of the vacant term. I apologize for that error.
Chapter law 399 of 1959 is the enabling statute of the GAC. Short of much controversy it is primarily of interest to the GAC. Now that all eyes are on Gunstock my past error is going to receive plenty of attention.
Back in 2020, with issues of viruses filling the news, the delegation voted to replace commissioner Nix with Rusty McLear. As it was the last year of Nix’s term, I misunderstood that we could appoint for a full 5 years. Why bother filling a position for 5 months?
Interestingly, as Hepburn points out, commissioner Kiedaisch asked about McLear’s term in October of 2020. Why did he ask about that?
He asked because he had read Chapter law 399. He knew that the law only allowed the appointment to fill the remainder of the Nix term.
Did he share that knowledge? No.
Did he think that an opinion of a representative would trump the law? If so, that little bit of deception by omission is about to bite him.
An honest chairman of the GAC would have shared this information and asked for the reappointment of McLear. And the delegation, with the power of appointment, could have simply reappointed McLear without going through advertising for a replacement. Why would we bother seeking new candidates after such a short time. Nothing in the statute requires the formality of taking applications.
This foolish maneuver on the part of Kiedaisch now puts in question every vote of McLear since his term, by law, ended in November of 2020.
GAC is scheduled to have an emergency meeting today, March 11, 2022. While not on their agenda, they should seek to have the delegation fill the seat vacated by law in November of 2020.
The county commissioners are troubled by restrictions placed upon them by the delegation. They have requested to have limits on transfers within the budget removed. Whereas they have a habitude of building into their budgets large surpluses, this would allow for spending far beyond that which is necessary. It is also a typical scheme directed at increasing the fund balance. Such excess taxation without need is egregious in light of the large tax hike coming even if we hold the line on restricting spending to necessities.
The law requires “Appropriations by the county convention shall be itemized in detail.” As such the delegation sets the budget by line items within each department. The commissioners’ request would have us violate the law by giving them a simple bottom line budget for the entire county operation.
The law allows the delegation to appropriate a contingency fund of up to one percent of the budget, ~$300,000, to meet unexpected expenses. As you will see in the 2022 budget, (and this is consistent with past practice) the commissioners use the nursing services department as a buffer for additional spending or for increasing the fund balance. This, in practice, creates a pool of money in the order of 3% of the county budget, which gets redirected to areas perhaps not contemplated for appropriation by the delegation. This unjustly increases taxation.
The Covid crisis, created by a manufactured virus and blown out of proportion by a government propaganda campaign, has taken a toll on people around the globe. It has broken our medical care industry. All nursing homes in the county are all struggling to find nurses. The county nursing home, funded by taxation, has the ability to outbid all others to acquire nurses at the most inflated costs. The unseen cost, should we choose to drive pay rates higher, is that we would steal nurses from other homes. Will it force the closure of a privately run nursing home? The adjustments made by the executive committee smartly balance the needs of our facility with the needs of all the county nursing homes.
The commissioners consider limitations on spending authority (appropriations) to be “a tool to try to bend the Commissioners to a small number of individuals’ political will.” The delegation has elected an executive committee to do the work of assuring adherence to the budget as passed by the delegation. When the executive branch of government seeks to remove oversight by the legislative branch, red flags should be flying. They are seeking a rubber stamp delegation. The executive committee is not interested in playing games of ‘political will.’ Instead they seek to hold the commissioners to following the law.
The commissioners are lobbying for the restoration of $650,000 which was trimmed from their bloated request. This is ~2% of the budget. If we look at the past decade we can see that the budget passed by the delegation – NEVER enough to satisfy the commissioners – supplies enough on average to leave ~7% to be returned to fund balance. This means that even after ‘cutting the budget to the bone,’ taxpayers were hit with a bill 7% higher than was needed.
Your memory need not be exquisite to recall that just last year, after the executive committee finished its work, the commissioners requested the restoration of $444,824 to the budget. This request was rejected by the delegation. At the end of the year over $800,000 was returned to fund balance. The delegation clearly made the right choice in approving the executive committee’s recommendation.
The delegation has high expectations for our department heads, and they always match their performance to that high standard. Our system of government is wisely divided such that the executive branch is not unrestrained. The legislative branch (the delegation) has a duty to appropriate only those monies necessary for the proper operation of the county. The law allows a contingency fund of 1%, yet the commissioners and delegation have allowed budgets with an excess of 7% more than necessary.
The executive committee has, once again, reviewed the commissioners’ budget and done their best to match the budget to real world needs. Their years of experience have served the taxpayers of the county well. The commissioners’ condescending remarks are contemptible and unnecessary. The delegation chose the members of the executive to do the work of carefully examining the commissioners’ budget and bringing a prudent budget for the full delegation to vote upon.
The shadowy group known as Citizens for Gunstock (CfG), aided and abetted by The Laconia Daily Sun have been busy politicking against those whom seek integrity in the operation of our beloved little ski area.
They falsely claim that the public will not be heard regarding the
selection of a replacement Gunstock area commissioner. The truth is
that Monday’s meeting will begin with public comments. In fact, all
delegation members’ contact information is public and we listen to
the people daily.
Some claim that our selection process is in some way nefarious and unnecessarily rushed. It is hardly a secret that commissioner Gallagher resigned. The request for applicants has been advertised in the newspaper for a couple of weeks. At this point we have applications from three very well qualified candidates. All delegation members have received those applications and they will have 4 days to review them, and if they wish, contact the candidates. If you have not been following the issue, there is in fact a need to fill this position without delay. The current board is set in a deadlock with a strong possibility of 2 to 2 votes. Delaying to fill the void would be irresponsible. The delegation can override my position but it is my duty to give them that choice expeditiously.
The “sneaky Petes” of CfG misdirect the public with a charge that due process is being denied. Using that term invokes feelings of violation of constitutional protections. Marxists love to yank your ‘feelz.’ Due process is a protection for someone accused of wrong doing. Candidates for a position are due equal consideration. They will receive such at our meeting as they always have had in the past.
Speaking of due process, all of the controversy regarding Gunstock
arose from the commission’s zeal to rid itself of one of its own.
They did so without giving that commissioner due process, instead
they dropped unsubstantiated claims in the laps of the delegation.
One is left to wonder why they couldn’t simply operate with perpetual
4 to 1 votes.
The CfG trot out the ‘poison the well’ fallacy, suggesting that
the ‘game is rigged’ and condescendingly claiming that your elected
representatives are nothing more than political lackeys. Such insults
are contemptible and shameful, and are beneath response.
I will note a couple of problems with the advertisement seeking applications. First, it was supposed to read that the deadline for applications be received at the county office on Friday at 3pm. This will allow the weekend for the delegation’s review. Second, it also incorrectly states the position will be a five year term. This is my error. While the delegation has in the past filled a vacancy for a five year term, the enabling statute is clear that the vacancy is to be filled for the remainder of the vacant term. I apologize for that error. Both of these issues with the ad are inconsequential as the law would allow the delegation to fill the position without an application process.
Unfortunately we may need to address the previous improper filling
of the vacancy created when commissioner Nix resigned in 2020.
Technically the position filled by Rusty McLear would have expired
when Nix’s would have ended. Someone might claim him to be a de
facto office holder. More drama incoming?
It has been asserted that I am a supporter of privatization of Gunstock. This is simply not true. While I am open to considering such a move, I have not made a commitment to such action. Sadly the leftist are unable to understand nuance.
The Marxists at CfG have selected their choice of candidates for the position, Heidi Preuss. They are lobbying hard to put this Kiedaisch acolyte in place. Fortunately this candidate is easily dismissed; she applied for the position last fall and failed to attend the meeting. She even published a letter in the Laconia Daily Sun claiming to have been railroaded away from the meeting.
In their reporting on candidates The Laconia Daily Sun couldn’t resist putting their thumb on the scale, dredging up old charges of political in-correctness against Doug Lambert. I’m sure they are digging for dirt on Dr. Strang, perhaps he has prescribed hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin!
Behind the scenes it is hard to say exactly what is going on, and this is the source of the problems at Gunstock: secrecy. Commissioner Kiedaisch has a grand plan but only shares bits and pieces with the public. It leaves large areas open for speculation. For instance, he has stated that the plans for a hotel on county property will be locally owned. How can he know that a local owner will provide the best contract for the lease of a site? More questions quickly fall behind that one. Will the developer have a preexisting relationship with any of the commissioners?
Another issue with Gunstock is the local character of the ski area. As a county owned asset many local residents have grown up on the slopes of Gunstock. The vision of commissioner Kiedaisch of the future for Gunstock, although not explicitly stated, is in the image of Deer Valley Resort. The model of Deer Valley focuses on less crowding and higher ticket prices. This is skiing for the elite. If you have attended any recent meeting of the commission, you will know that is their current direction. And where has Ms. Preuss lived for the majority of the last couple of decades? Park City, Utah home of Deer Valley. I wonder if her return to Laconia was coordinated with commissioner Kiedaisch’s appointment?
What the delegation needs to hear from the public is their opinion of this model that is being promoted by commissioner Kiedaisch. Will future generations of local children be welcome, and be able to afford to learn to ski at Gunstock? I have no doubt that the elite will be coming out on Monday to protect their interests, but will we see the hard working citizens of the county?
Another crisis at the Belknap county nursing home has arisen. It must be dealt with on Monday, Thursday is too late. In a story at the Laconia Daily Sun, Michael Mortensen asked the right question, “why the commissioners were resorting to a special meeting rather than waiting for the commission’s next regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday.”
Many answers to the question are long standing issues that are well known and have been considered for years. If you are familiar with the proper method of reading the Laconia Daily Sun, you’ll know you need to sort through a bit of fluff before you find the nugget of truth. And in this case, it is this; “the requirement that all health-care workers must, by Dec. 5, be vaccinated against COVID.”
Joe Biden has demanded workers be forced to accept an experimental medical treatment and highly educated medical providers are willing to be fired rather than take the risk.
The county administration counted on these workers knuckling under to the pressure to accept the jab. Now with a week to figure out what to do the commissioners will look for a Hail Mary pass. While Biden controls the printing press and can freely (at great expenses to the citizens) throw money at problems, the county commissioners are limited in their response. They might squeeze the county taxpayers for more money; something private nursing homes can’t do (yet are forced to compete against). Or they might consider giving exemptions to those who conscientiously stand for bodily integrity and autonomy; a right of every New Hampshire citizen.
While there have been many calls for Governor Sununu to bring the legislature into a special session to address these vaccine mandates, he has chosen to ignore the brewing crisis.
Having been around the block a time or two, I won’t be surprised to read the follow-up story in the Laconia Daily Sun which blames the county delegation for the crisis.
The Gunstock Area Commission (GAC) is a public body and is required to operate in compliance with RSA 91-A. If they were following the law there would be minutes and notices coming from the Master Planning Committee outlining the work of the committee. They can not produce any such record.
A further troubling issue is that they admit that there has been no vote on that which is included in their Master Plan. Above we can see that they did vote to ‘bake into’ the following year’s budget $100,000 toward producing the Master Plan. One might think that such a contract might have some sort of guidance toward the goals of the Master Plan. One is left to speculation.
This sort of government operation in the shadows is sadly not uncommon. Our Right-To-Know laws are much too weak, and place the burden of oversight on the public. A citizen would have to file a suit in superior court in order to resolve the issue.
In this instance there is a more direct solution available. The county delegation is responsible for the appointment of GAC members. We also have the ability to remove commissioners ‘for cause.’ Violation of RSA 91-A sure seems to be a reasonable cause for removal of the chairman in charge of the commission.
Let’s start with a point on which all agree; Gunstock is a valuable county asset. As such it is in the interest of all in the county to assure it continues to be properly run and maintained. As far as I know there is no one that is interested in closing or harming Gunstock.
Many people have been chiming in with their opinions on the proper operation of the Gunstock ski area. Having attended most Gunstock Area Commission (GAC) meetings for the past couple of years I have to ask, where have you been?
If all those who write letters to the local paper had been attending GAC meetings, we might not be in the position which requires involvement of the delegation. The letters you write are based solely on information delivered by sources that have their own agenda. You have been used to support a plan of which you know little. Even those who have been following the actions of the GAC have only partial knowledge of the soon to be revealed Master Plan. It might be a useful exercise to ask the GAC when they voted to approve the Master Plan and when the public was allowed to comment on said plan.
Gunstock is a county owned and operated asset. It is not a private business. The GAC is a public body appointed by the Belknap county delegation. As a public entity it is required to adhere to the public meeting laws under RSA 91-A. The development of the Master Plan has had little to no public input and seems to have been produced by a subcommittee of the GAC, yet such a subcommittee has not met publicly nor produced minutes of any meetings. If this is true it is a violation of the right-to-know law, RSA 91-A. If it is not true the GAC can produce records of meeting dates and minutes, along with recommendations from the subcommittee made to the GAC. I have seen no evidence supporting the existence of such records.
Many letter writers have questioned the timing of the delegations action against members of the GAC. It was not the delegation that demanded the removal of commissioner Ness. The GAC put this issue on the table when they produced a defamatory and baseless claim against Ness. The GAC voted to get a legal opinion regarding the validity of their ethics policy, yet the resulting report from attorney Quarles wandered into defamatory allegations which lacked support of any witnesses or testimony. The GAC voted to censure commissioner Ness without due process. This key failure, to assure that the claim which was delivered to the delegation had merit, is the reason it was dismissed.
While there is currently insufficient evidence available, the GAC votes lacking verifiable facts might be considered reckless and harmful actions against a public official and should be referred to the Attorney General. The report produced by attorney Quarles went beyond the issue of the ethics policy which was approved by the GAC. The report was clearly defamatory. Motivation for the production of the report may be tied to commissioner Ness’ diligence in seeking information necessary to his duties as a member of the GAC. As the scope of work was beyond that which had been authorized, a case for the misuse of funds may be made. Improper Influence – RSA 640:3, Criminal defamation, RSA 644:11, Obstructing Government Administration, RSA 642:1, Official Oppression – RSA 643:1, Conspiracy – RSA 629:3, are criminal elements that may be at issue, along with civil claims that could be brought in the future.
It has been said that the actions of the delegation are unprecedented, and it is true. Unfortunately it is also extremely rare for a board to seek the removal of one of its own members. Once again the delegation is not the initiator of the events. We as a delegation have a duty to ensure that the GAC is properly serving in the public interest. To do anything less is to shirk our responsibilities.
Among many false allegations is an assertion that Gunstock might be closed. This is pure nonsense. Those who spread such absurdities only wish to irresponsibly drum up fear. One is left to speculate as to the source. Perhaps the Laconia Daily Sun would like to advise the public as to the people behind Citizens For Gunstock’s full page ads, or those 2 pages of petition signatures. Sadly it is unlikely that those who signed the petition had much knowledge of that which they signed.
The GAC repeatedly claims credit for the great performance of Gunstock in the past year. While it was a very good year, it would be hard to find a business in outdoor recreation that did not do extremely well in the year of COVID19; housebound people were deprived of their normal activities which would have them in close contact with other people. Boston area skiers unable to get on airplanes swarmed to the north making it a great year for all eastern ski areas. It certainly didn’t hurt to have a reasonably good winter for snow cover. This is said not to diminish the efforts of the employees but to simply put the great fiscal performance in perspective.
Speaking of the financial success of Gunstock, the GAC never fails to remind the public that they have always paid off in a timely fashion their Revenue Anticipation Notes (RAN). It is indeed true. What they never mention is the $6,000,000 default in 2000 which was picked up by county taxpayers. I can assure you the payments made to the county over the past 20 years have not amounted to recovering that loss. I’ll not venture into what kind of bonding might be suggested in the new Master Plan as I have no such knowledge.
As was noticed on Nov. 6, 2021, “On Monday October 25, 2021 attorney Thomas Quarles presented to the Belknap county delegation a Request for Disqualifications (RFD). This request was addressed from four members of the Gunstock Area Commission (GAC), Kiedaisch, Gallagher, McLear, and Dumais. In this request it is made clear by the use of their titles that they are acting as members of GAC.” What is not clear is how attorney Quarles was hired without a meeting of the GAC. This is contrasted by the vote on Nov. 10, 2021 in a public meeting (for which public comment was not allowed) to have attorney Quarles file for a temporary restraining order against the delegation. It appears that attorney Quarles was hired in an unnoticed meeting, prior to producing the RFD, in violation of RSA 91-A. If true, this stands as ‘just cause’ for removal.
Another perplexing question arises from that Nov. 10, 2021 vote to retain counsel. The temporary restraining order explicitly seeks to protect commissioners Kiedaisch, Gallagher and McLear from removal. They had a clear conflict of interest yet they were the only commissioners voting to approve the motion to engage counsel. Expending funds from Gunstock for their own personal protection might be viewed as ‘just cause’ for removal.
Once again, I know of no one that wants to close or harm Gunstock. My only agenda is open and transparent operation of a county asset. I will continue to work for good government and a successful Gunstock Mountain Resort.
Rep. Mike Sylvia Chairman, Belknap County Delegation
PUBLIC MEETING NOTICE:
November public meeting of the Gunstock Area Commission will be held on
Wednesday, November 17th at 6PM in the Historic Lodge at Gunstock
Mountain Resort. To view the public notice and tentative agenda, please
Every two years in New Hampshire almost all elected officials either terminate their service or stand for re-election. Over the course of the past 7 years, documented in this series, many of the faces have changed. In December 2020 over one third of the Belknap County Convention were seated as first term representatives.
While the faces of the Convention have changed, the actions of the commissioners and administration have yet to be subjected to accountability regarding abuses of budget authority.
As you have read, the law is clear regarding appropriations. It is also clear in its path to remedy. One such remedy is provided in RSA 21:17 which allows:
24:17 Investigations. – The county convention by a vote of a majority of all its members may appoint a committee of its own members, not to exceed 5, and not over 3 to be of either of the 2 major political parties, to investigate conditions pertaining to the conduct of county affairs by any county officer or any person appointed or employed by such officer, which committee shall have power to summon witnesses, examine them under oath, secure a transcript of the testimony and do other necessary acts to conduct such an investigation.
We need not look back to previous years of abuse, 2020 provides a prime, and current example for which the committee of investigation may focus.
Having been granted the authority to transfer up to the sum of $5,000 between departments in the budget, it became clear in October 2020 that one department would exceed its $717,000 appropriation.
The year ended with department 025180 with a budget of $717,000 showing $919,385.88 having been spent, $202,385.88 more than had been appropriated for the department. (page 13)
As the chairman of the committee of investigations prepared to line up interviews with staff members, the administration was busy putting roadblocks in his path. They refused to pay for a court reporter to properly record testimony. Without properly recorded testimony under oath no investigation could proceed to gather reliable information.
In order to acquire the necessary testimony it became clear that a court order would be needed to assure payment to a court recorder, getting that court order would now require an attorney to represent the committee of investigation.
Chairman Silber held a meeting of the committee in order to seek approval to hire an attorney, who had agreed to allow payment upon the court’s order. Members of the committee failed to go forward in their duties.
The issue will be returned to the Convention on August 10, 2021 at 7:00 pm to resolve questions surrounding the investigation. Of note, the first meeting of the Convention in December 2020 was a mixed, in person and Zoom remote meeting. Many of our new members were unable to grasp the depth of the issues due to the poor quality of communications via remote technology.
Representatives of Belknap county have a duty to investigate conditions pertaining to the conduct of county affairs by any county officer or any person appointed or employed by such officer. Failing to fulfill this duty would be an act of nonfeasance.
If you are keeping count you know this is the fifth in the series of posts outlining the problems which continue in Belknap county.
The county administration for 2018 has taken a more low profile strategy in their attempts to take control of appropriating authority. On July 17, 2018 at the Executive Committee review of the budget a little problem popped up.
Separate fund? As in outside the budget? Here we go again.
A little bit a research showed that a scheme was created to allow the sheriff to move outside detail out of the budget.
Note that this dates back to April 3, 2018 shortly after the budget was made final. Also, there is no law that allows for this revolving fund. My criminal complaint was sent to the county attorney and the Attorney General. If you have been following along, you know there would be no criminal investigation.
Once again, on October 18, 2018 the commissioners reverse their action. No harm? No foul?
Back to today’s title, the case for misfeasance seems rather solid. A case for malfeasance is strongly supported. On Tuesday August 10, 2021 the county Convention will look at more recent actions of the commissioners. As chairman of the Convention, I can say that nonfeasance is not an option for the Convention.
The 2017 sprinkler scam fell apart pretty quickly so for 2018 the Belknap county commissioners tried a more stealthy plan to snatch a few bucks from the contingency fund.
During the Executive Committee’s review of the budget on May 11, 2018 we noticed $4,000 had been removed from the contingency fund.
As mentioned, the statute is clear; 24:13 Powers. – II. Notwithstanding any other laws to the contrary, the county convention of any county shall have the power to appropriate a contingency fund to meet the cost of unanticipated expenses that may arise during the year or to provide payment for a performance audit under RSA 28:3-b, to be expended only upon approval by the executive committee of the county delegation.
This was first time we had noticed the missing money, be assured no approval had been sought to transfer the funds.
Once again you can see that this crisis was a total contrivance, as reported in the Laconia Daily Sun, the budget for the department could hardly be stressed in April. And just to drive their scheme a touch further:
He (MacFadzen) asked for $3,000 to be transferred to cover both items.
Commission Vice Chairman Glenn Waring, who chaired Thursday’s meeting due to absence of Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy, and Commissioner Hunter Taylor, said they thought he needed more money than requested and voted to transfer $4,000 to the department.
If you are going to rob the bank why stop at $4,000?
DeVoy said commissioners agreed to undo the transfer rather than face the prospect of a long, drawn-out legal battle with the delegation over budgetary authority.
“It wasn’t worth it. And the money isn’t needed right now anyway,” he said.
Having returned the money to the bank, the county attorney declared ‘no foul.’
I found this to be less than satisfying considering the history of abuse and forwarded this issue to the Attorney General’s office with some additional details. Somewhere in the stacks of papers in my ‘office’ there is a reply that roughly say, ‘blah, blah, blah, so what?’