Principles Before Pride

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.

January 20, 2022 email to delegation members.

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.

LTE March 11, 2022 The Laconia Daily Sun

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.

Citizens for Gunstock

In the age of misinformation and mass formation psychosis rationality and reason are hard to find.

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?

The Gunstock Master Plan

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.

GAC Minutes February 24, 2021

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.

Gunstock Area Commission

Comments to the Belknap County Delegation November 16, 2021:

We are here tonight to address what has become a hot topic around Belknap county and beyond; Gunstock Mountain Resort.

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.

GAC By-laws

Article II

Article III

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:

The 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 click here

Gunstock Changes

In an article I found at Patch, about some changes that have been in the works for a while, I found a few items that could use some clarification.

By Paula Tracy, InDepthNH.org

GILFORD, NH — Belknap County-owned Gunstock ski area is in for some changes as its longtime general manager and its marketing director leave. And legislation is proposed to give legislative leaders more control over the makeup of its governing board and the ski area’s money.

The writer kicks off this article with a pretty clear bias against legislators. The FACT is the legislators and the commission worked together to address deficiencies in the law that unduly restricted Gunstock from more efficient operation.

News of the change at the helm in the middle of the ski season came a day before legislation was heard on a bill to give the county legislative delegation more control over who operates Gunstock and where the money goes.

As to management of the ski area, it is functionally the end of the year and time to begin planning for future operations. As to ‘the money‘, this is more than a small quibble for control of a couple of bucks. The ski area has been rescued by the county taxpayers twice in recent decades. The last was a $6,000,000 bailout in 2000. If you can be bothered to do the math, there is hardly a return on investment, if you chose to look at in such terms.

The current law states that no more than one person from the same municipality can serve on the board but the bill looks to drop that requirement and it would add term limits.

The current law states that no more than one two persons from the same municipality can serve on the board.

The Gunstock Area Commission has a regularly scheduled meeting set for Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. at the ski area.

From the Gunstock web page;

The next meeting of the Gunstock Area Commission will be held Wednesday January 29th at 6pm at the Belkanp County Complex, Meeting Room 2, 34 County Way, Laconia NH 03247.

Gunstock Bailout

Gunstock bailout

Rep Raymond Howard has facts on his side

2018 has presented Gunstock with some tough sledding on the fiscal front.  As we approach the November 6th election Gunstock and its financial woes has been used as political fodders.  In recent letters 1, 2, to the Laconia Daily Sun a candidate (a current Gunstock commissioner) and a former Gunstock commissioner have written a jumble of incoherent misleading scribblings aimed at the integrity of Rep. Howard.

After a number of years being run by the Belknap County Commissioners, the Gunstock Area Commission was formed to resolve problems associated with the ski area being run by the County Commissioners. This ignores the actual problem which is a government body trying to run a competitive business. 

One of the problems of a government run business is moral hazard.  The taxpayers are on the hook for any failures but management reaps rewards if things run reasonably well.  In the ski industry 2-3 years of bad weather can be expected and plans for such need to be in place.  The late 1990’s put Gunstock in a position which required a hard choice; shut it down, or go to the taxpayers to keep it running.

On May 11, 2000 the County Delegation handed the bill to the county taxpayers:

Gunstock 2000 Memorandum
May 11, 2000 Gunstock Memorandum of Agreement

Contrary to Rep. Howard’s critics the county taxpayers are on the edge of having to pick up another $6 million in bonds which Gunstock is having difficulty servicing.  The Gunstock Commission has failed over the past 17 years to build enough reserves  to get through one summer without a Revenue Anticipation Note.  Let’s not forget the downgrade of the county’s bond rating earlier in 2018 whereas Moody’s cited Gunstock as a risk factor in that decision.

This should not be taken as an assault on any of the current or past commissioners.  The problem is that government is not capable of running a business and shouldn’t even ever attempt to do so.  It’s time to find a way to turn over the keys to a qualified operator.