Adjoining towns, regional planning commission, will be heard about proposed gun facility

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – The zoning board of adjustment has decided to invite residents and officials of Hopkinton and Webster, as well as representatives of the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission, to its next public meeting so they can offer input into a proposed $1.4-million, 11,800 square-foot shooting range and retail gun store on Warner Road.

The ZBA approved the idea at its town hall meeting last Wednesday, October 11, after the members began their second review of a zoning variance request from Eric Miller, the Sutton resident who wants to build the facility. The request for the allowable variance was originally approved back by the ZBA in March but a court ruled in July that the board erred when it did not notify several abutters about its original hearing, nor did it consider whether the project could be considered to have “regional impact.” (The latter designation obligates town boards to notify neighboring communities and the planning commission about a proposed project and public hearings about it.)

‘Twenty years ago there was a shooting range right across from the high school and nobody said anything about it.’

– Howard Kirchner,  ZBA member 

The gun store/shooting range proposal has been controversial ever since Miller announced his intentions nearly 10 months ago. Some area residents like the idea, saying there are many gun enthusiasts in the region and the facility will give them a safe place to learn how to improve their skills. Opponents say that the location, roughly three miles from Hopkinton Middle High School, is a poor choice, and that noise and environmental issues could make the operation problematic for the neighborhood.

Most of the legal opposition has come from Norman Carlson, who is founder and CEO of the town’s largest high-tech employer, MadgeTech, Inc.. He has threatened to move his 60-employee plant, adjacent to the Miller’s land, out of town if the project is completed and his Carlson’s business entities have legally challenged almost every aspect of the project, including approvals Miller has won from the ZBA and the planning board. State officials say that Carlson missed out an opportunity to purchase the property, which is adjacent to his plant, during a public bid earlier in the year, and that he inadvertently created the 2.9-acre lot when he mistakenly okayed a tree clearance on the electric company for the land when it was still part of the Davisville State Forest.

At last week’s hearing, Rick Davies, chairman of the ZBA, asked the board’s voting members the question they did not consider at their original hearing in March: Does the proposed facility have a “regional impact?”

Barbara Marty said that it was probably a good idea to let the other communities comment on the project. “I think, being good neighbors, we owe them that,” she said.

“I’m torn,” countered member Howard Kirchner. While he understood people’s concerns, he said that “20 years ago there was a shooting range right across from the high school and nobody said anything about it. This is much safer and much farther away than that.”

Davies pointed out that the question before the board was not on the overall merits of the project but simply whether it could be seen to have regional impact, and therefore trigger invitations to the neighboring towns and the planning commission.

After a brief discussion, the members voted unanimously to support the idea. (The two towns and the commission will have no legal authority at the upcoming meeting to approve or disapprove Warner’s planning decisions.)

The members then adjourned the public hearing with the intention of reconvening it at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, November 8, at 7 pm in the town hall. The ZBA will also hold a site review of the Warner Road property this Thursday (Oct. 19) at 5:30 p.m. but no pubic input will be taken at that time.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, October 17, 2017.

Advertisements

Newbury, NH, needs a new police chief

photo image from the Newbury Police Department’s Facebook page.

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY – Robert Lee, who has served as the town’s police for more than a decade, has left his position.

In a “severance agreement and release” document signed by Lee and the board of selectmen in late August, the former chief and the town agreed that he would begin an immediate leave of absence and begin seeking other employment. Town officials agreed to pay Lee $49,000, or about 55-percent of his approximate annual salary of $90,000, which includes 485½ hours of compensation. At a recent selectmen’s meeting, Town Administrator Dennis Pavlicek said that the payment includes some paid vacation time that Lee is owed.

‘Once we look at all the options, we’ll move forward. I think we’ll take action within a month… We’re not going to linger over this or make a knee jerk reaction.’

— Selectman Ed Thorson

Late last week, Ed Thorson, chairman of the board, described Lee’s recent departure as routine” for a small town.

But at a recent board of selectmen’s meeting, more than 20 resident came to express their concerns about Lee and how the town is handling his sudden departure. Afterwards, Thorson said that some people had became agitated by rumors that “got things totally out of proportion,” including the idea that the board was “going to have (all police work) done by New London, that we were throwing up our hands and saying, it’s more trouble than it’s worth (to manage the four-person local police department.)”

At the September 18 meeting, the selectmen laid out their thoughts more accurately.

They said they were planning to meet with New London Police Chief Ed Andersen the next day to discuss a possible intermunicipal agreement that would provide additional coverage for Newbury on a temporary basis, until a replacement for Lee was in place. The tentative deal would cost $20,000 and last until the end of the year, although a clause would allow the town to opt out at a lower cost if the chief’s position is filled sooner.

At the meeting, resident Joanne Lord said that Lee “got paid off” to leave the police department. She later said that Lee and another prominent town employee had frequent disagreements over the years and that the selectmen wanted to resolve the tension by releasing Lee.

Thorson laughed and denied the idea when asked about the rumored conflict.

The selectmen did have a problem with Lee in 2014. At that time, the former chief was suspended for a week by the board. Lee took legal action against the town, claiming in part that his constitutional rights had been violated. In late July 2014, the selectmen agreed to rescind the suspension and replaced it with a written letter of warning in his personnel file. They also paid him for his lost wages as well as $3,500 and his attorney’s fee of $6,712.40.

Town officials cannot comment on either the circumstances surrounding Lee’s sudden departure or the 2014 incident because they are personal issues that are required to be kept confidential.

At the recent board meeting, several people asked the selectmen if they had considered Police Sgt. Brad Wheeler, a Newbury native, to fill the now-vacant chief’s position.

The board indicated that Wheeler, who has been acting chief since Lee’s departure, could be considered.

“We’ve made no decision yet,” Thorson said late last week. “We’re trying to keep all our options open, not excluding or including anybody from consideration.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, the board decided to postpone its planned meeting with Chief Andersen.

“Once we look at all the options, we’ll move forward,” Thorson said. “I think we’ll take action within a month. We’re not going to linger over this or make a knee jerk reaction.”

The chairman said that he does not believe that the town is not required to make a public job posting for the chief’s position if the selectmen decide to appoint a current police officer, like Wheeler, to the job.

For his part, Wheeler said he’d welcome the opportunity to become Newbury’s new police chief.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., on Tuesday, October 11, 2017.

Gov. Sununu appoints new Sunapee boat access group; locals want court to overturn his decision to ditch Wild Goose plan

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY – Several local sportsmen associations and at least two residents have mounted a legal challenge to Gov. Chris Sununu’s plan to ditch a long-delayed proposal for building a public access boat launch on Lake Sunapee’s southeast shore.

The governor is moving forward with seeking an alternative to the local site.

Sununu signed an executive order recently that establishes the Lake Sunapee Public Access Development Commission. The group will research and evaluate “alternative opportunities for expansion of boat access at Lakes Sunapee,” according to a press statement issued by his office. It will also consider other uses for the three-acre Wild Goose site that the state purchased for a possible boat ramp in 1990.

The new executive order says that the state’s original plan to build a boat ramp on the 3.3-acre land off Birth Grove Road has “met with significant public opposition, including extensive litigation involving multiple appeals to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.” At a result, according to the order, “it is necessary to assemble a variety of perspectives” before moving forward with both a new lake access plan that will be supported by a majority of the public as well as a new development goal for the Wild Goose property.

“The (F&G) letter charged that ‘a few wealthy individuals’… want to keep the lake ‘as their own private domain.’

The 15-member commission will include two members of the state legislature as well as representatives from the NH Public Water Access Advisory Board, the NH Fish and Game Department, the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES), the NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and residents of New London, Newbury and Sunapee (appointed by those town’s boards of selectmen). Residents and/or shoreline property owners from the same three towns would be chosen by the governor.

On Friday, Ben Vihstadt, the Sununu’s press representative, said the governor has not yet announced members of the commission, but that the group will meet at least once a month with the goal of issuing a report by March 2018.

The idea of developing the Wild Goose site has been debated for decades.

While the state is legally obligated to provide pubic access to Sunapee, many area residents, including both Newbury town officials and the Lake Sunapee Protective Association, have long opposed the local project. The opponents argue that there already is adequate public (although not state-owned/operated) access to the lake, and that the local site off Rte. 103 could create significant traffic and environmental issues.

Supporters of the Wild Goose plan say state officials have already approved the Wild Goose site and that the current ramp access points are inadequate.

The state’s courts have twice sided with the supporters, defeating legal challenges to the proposed ramp. However, Sununu may handed the opponents a victory when he decided last month to not seek an annual renewal of the DES wetland permit needed to build a ramp on the site.

“Trying to salvage a flawed and controversial idea that has not gone anywhere in over 20 years and that was left without funding by the legislature is not a viable plan to increase public access on Lake Sunapee,” Sununu said. “My priority remains bringing forward a real proposal that will actually allow Granite Staters greater access to our Lake Sunapee.”

Shortly after the announcement, the fish and game commission took the unusual step of publically asking Sununu to reconsider his decision. The letter charged that the Newbury project was delayed because it’s opposed by “a few wealthy individuals” who own shoreline property near the Wild Goose land and want to keep the lake “as their own private domain.”

Now, the Sullivan County Sportsman Club, the NH Bass Federation and others have petitioned the Sullivan County Superior Court to reverse Sununu’s decision, saying that only the DES has the authority to decide on the status of a wetlands permit.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017.

 

Sunapee election fraud charges postponed until November; alleged accomplice could testify against Sunapee man

By Ray Carbone

NEWPORT – A criminal trial that could send a Manchester man to jail for his role in an alleged case of election fraud in a 2016 Sunapee school board race has been postponed.

Adam Gaw, 36, was arrested in March after authorities accused him of doctoring someone else’s email in order to make some school board candidates look bad days just before town elections. A scheduling conference was set to take place in Newport District Court last Tuesday, but Brian W. Buonamano, an assistant attorney general, joined with Lauren Breda, a public defender representing Gaw, asking that Judge Bruce Cardello postpone Gaw’s trial until at least November.

“Adam Gaw is tied up in this (Joseph) Furlong matter,”  his attorney told the judge. “We’re looking at him hopefully as a cooperative witness.”

“Adam Gaw is tied up in this Furlong matter,” Buonamano told the judge. “We’re looking at him hopefully as a cooperative witness.”

Joseph Furlong, 40, of Sunapee was charged at the same time as Gaw. Authorities say the two men worked together to change an email originally sent out by another person in order to sway the school board election in favor of Furlong’s wife, Heather Furlong. (Heather Furlong won a school board seat in March 2016 but she resigned shortly after her husband was arrested in March 2017.)

in The two men were originally arrested and charged in March 2017 but, in July the attorney general’s office set the original charges set aside and instituted several new ones: two counts of illegally altering an email with the aim of influencing the results of an election (Class A misdemeanor) and one count of forgery (a Class B misdemeanor).

Last month, a judge dismissed all charges against Furlong, ruling that the state had made several legal errors regarding the new charges, including missing the legal statue of limitations for the crimes. (The AG has filed a request to have the judge reconsider his decision and Furlong’s attorney recently submitted an objection to the AG’s reconsideration request.)

At last weeks’ hearing, Breda indicated that if the dismissal of Furlong’s charges is allowed to stand, Gaw could ask the court to dismiss all charges against him based on the same legal arguments.

Gaw entered a not-guilty plea to all charges in July, but authorities say that he’s already accepted full responsibility for the altered messages twice – once, in an email to the police department and once in a signed statement given at the Sunapee police station.

Judge Cardello set a new status hearing on Gaw’s charges for November 14.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, September 19, 2017.

 

Superior Court Judge tosses out request for restraining order against Sunapee Police Chief David Cahill

By Ray Carbone

NEWPORT – A local reality TV producer and his wife have lost their fight to win a restraining order and a stalking order of protection against Dave Cahill, the chief of Sunapee police department.

In a decision handed down on Friday, Judge Brian Tucker of the Sullivan County Superior Court here ruled that Joseph and Heather Furlong of Sunapee “presented no instance of unwarranted contact (with the chief) – direct or indirect, real or threatened – that justifies a restraining order.”

The judge recognized the anxiety the couple has had regarding the chief over the last six months, but he said that “the subjective views of the Fulongs are not enough to support issuing the (restraining) order.”

During the hearing held Thursday in the superior court, several witnesses – including the Furlongs – indicated that the chief only had, at most, four incidents in the last 18 months where he’d interacted with either of the Furlongs, and Heather Furlong initiated two.

(The judge also dismissed the request for a stalking order, noting that such actions are taken in the Newport District Court.)

During Thursday’s hearing, it was apparent that the Furlongs were extremely anxious confronting the chief. Heather Furlong, the first witness, broke down in tears not long after she took the stand.

“I’m very concerned about a pattern that Mr. Cahill has demonstrated with myself and my husband,” she told the judge. “(He) has been malicious, which has resulted in substantial pain and suffering for my family.”

Joseph Furlong, who wiped tears from his eyes as his wife wept, said later that he had similar emotional problems. “I can’t sleep at night,” he testified. “(Cahill) is out to get me, to get vengeance… I want protection until I can pack up and move my family out of town.”

‘Heather Furlong, the first witness, broke down in tears not long after she took the stand… Joseph Furlong, who wiped tears from his eyes as his wife wept, said that he had similar emotional problems. “I can’t sleep at night,” he testified.’

 

Cahill, who has been in law enforcement for 30 years and Sunapee’s chief for the last 15 years, denied that he ever acted in an intimidating or threatening towards the couple. In fact, he testified that he’s had regular friendly small town-type encounters with the Furlongs for some time, particularly since his youngsters are the same age as their children.

Things began changing in 2016 after Joseph Furlong was investigated for allegedly doctoring an email with the apparent goal of swaying the election of a school board seat in his wife’s favor.

Cahill spoke with several people, including Furlong, after learning about the possible election fraud. Furlong was arrested in March 2017 following a yearlong investigation under the supervision of the New Hampshire attorney general’s office. He was charged with six counts related to forgery and making a false statement to the police.

Furlong denied the charges, and indicated that a 36-year-old construction contractor named Adam Gaw from Manchester, who was apparently working on the Furlong house, may have been responsible for the altered email message.

Shortly before Joseph Furlong was scheduled to go on trail last month, the attorney general withdrew the original charges and filed new ones, both related to actions taken during the alleged email doctoring.

A district court judge ruled that the new charges were filed after the statute of limitation had run out. He dismissed all charges against Joseph Furlong. (The AG has filed a request to have the judge reconsider his decision.)

At last week’s court hearing, the Furlongs told Judge Tucker that Cahill had friendly relationships with other residents who are their political opponents, and that the chief also harbors ill will against them because he mishandled the email investigation.

The judge listened to more than three hours of testimony, much of it related to the email investigation and the Furlongs’ reactions to Cahill and other Sunapee residents, but he made it clear that he was focused on the restraining order request.

‘I’m interested in the facts (relating to) whether I should issue an order restraining (Cahill) from seeing you, not the politics,” he told Heather Furlong at one point.

“Whether it was a bad or a good investigation really has noting to do with whether I should issue an order that Chief Cahill should stay away from you,” he said later to Joseph Furlong.

In related news, police report that Adam Gaw has twice taken full responsibility for doctoring the email messages but he recently plead “not guilty” to all related charges in district court. A hearing regarding his case is scheduled for this week.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on September 12, 2017.

 

 

 

Warner selectboard hears about beer at annual fall festival, and land use issues related to shooting range plan

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – At a busy meeting of the board of selectmen last week, the town leaders learned about plans to add a beer tent to the Warner Fall Foliage Festival next month and discussed how the recent resignation of the land use secretary could impact legal proceedings regarding the proposed gun store/shooting range.

At the meeting held Monday, August 29, in the town hall, Ray Martin, president of the WFFF’s board of directors, told the three-member town board that the festival has entered into an agreement with SweetFire BBQ of Claremont to operate a beer tent at the 70th annual festival, which runs Friday, Oct. 6 to Sunday, Oct. 8. (The beer tent will not be in operation on Friday, the first night of the downtown event.)

The new vendor will be located on the parking lot behind the New Hampshire Telephone Museum off Depot Street and across from the Pillsbury Free Library. SweetFire will also serve barbecued food, Martin said. “The vendor provides all ID checking (and) there’s a limit of two beers per person,” he noted.

The WFFF board has researched the company and is satisfied that it will manage the beer tent responsibly, the president said. It has its own insurance, which will be backed up by both the telephone museum’s and the festival’s.

The (land use resignation) is especially sensitive at this time because the town is locked in a legal dispute with Norman Carlson, the founder and CEO of MadgeTech, Inc., the town’s largest high-tech employer (regarding the shooting range plan).

 

SweetFire has done “a lot of” similar events in the area, Martin explained, adding that the company has been at the last two Hopkinton State Fairs and at several public events in Claremont.

Because the state liquor commission issues the company’s license, the selectmen did not need to take any action, Martin concluded. He simply wanted them to have giving official notification.

“We’re just looking at this as a rental space,” he told the selectmen. “It could be another $1,300 or $1,400 profit for the Warner Fall Foliage Festival.”

Later in the meeting, the selectmen discussed the recent resignation of Lois Lord, who has served as the town’s land use secretary for the last few years. The position is especially sensitive at this time because the town is locked in a legal dispute with Norman Carlson, the founder and CEO of MadgeTech, Inc., the town’s largest high-tech employer. Carlson’s business operations have recently won a court decision overturning the zoning board of adjustment’s approval of a plan to build a $1.4-million, 11,800 square-foot high-tech shooting range and retail gun facility on land adjacent to his MadgeTech plant on Warner Road. (The ZBA is scheduled to reconsider the application from Eric Miller of Sutton next Wednesday, Sept. 13.)

Town Manager Jim Bingham told the selectmen that the land use secretary’s job has seen some changes recently and he suggested that the board may want to review aspects of the position before hiring someone to take Lord’s place. “My suggestion is that we hire someone on an interim basis,” Bingham said.

Both Rick Davis, chairman of the ZBA, and Ben Frost, chairman of the planning board, told the that their boards do need help in the immediate future – “The gnarlier issues are with the zoning board,” said Frost – but they did not opposed the town administrator’s suggestion.

The selectmen suggested that the town manager begin looking to other communities in the area to find a qualified person to assume the duties on an interim basis.

“I’m going to begin working on that vigorously tomorrow,” Bingham said.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.

Election fraud dispute continues to swirl; Sunapee police chief could face injunction, charges against local man could be revived

By Ray Carbone

SUNAPEE – Late last month, a Newport District Court judge dismissed all charges against a local man who had been accused of doctoring an email last year to gain a political advantage for his wife in a political election. But that has not put the issue to rest.

Joseph and Heather Furlong, the couple at the center of the dispute, have filed for a restraining order against Police Chief David Cahill, claiming that he has threatened and frightened them both before and after the election fraud problem.

Cahill arrested Joseph Furlong, 40, and Adam Gaw, 36, of Londonderry in March 2017, charging that they’d altered an email written by another person in 2016 to make two people – including one running against Heather Furlong for a seat on the Sunapee school board – look bad just days before the election. (Heather Furlong won the election but she resigned after her husband was arrested.)

In court papers filed in the district court last week, the couple claimed that Chief Cahill compromised the investigation, and has caused both the couple and their school age children distress.

‘The judge agreed and dismissed the charges (against Joseph Furlong), but late last week, the attorney general’s office filed a Motion To Reconsider, asking the judge to review his decision.’

 

“My witnesses, my innocence and my rights have been suppressed by Dave (Cahill),” Joseph Furlong wrote in the restraining order request. “Since I was arrested, my life has been filled with fear and misery, and I am now asking for protection for my wife and me.”

On Sunday, Suzanne Gottling, vice-chairman of the board of selectmen, said she could not comment on the chief’s status because it is a personnel issue.

Chief Cahill also refused to comment, adding that he is scheduled to meet with the town attorney on Tuesday.

The court will consider the injunction request on Thursday.

In addition, the NH attorney general’s office has asked Judge Gregory E. Michael to reconsider his recent decision to dismiss all charges against Joseph Furlong as the case against Gaw continues to move forward.

Both men were separately charged with two counts of illegally altering an email with the aim of influencing the results of an election (Class A misdemeanor) and one count of forgery (a Class B misdemeanor).

Joseph Furlong was scheduled to go on trial last month but his attorney argued that the attorney general’s office had made several mistakes after it dropped its original charges against his client and filed new ones. One argument was that the new charges were filed past the legal time limit and that Furlong was an accessory, rather than the main actor in the criminal behavior. Another said that the Furlong’s specific actions were different than in the original charges so he didn’t have time to develop a proper defense.

The judge agreed and dismissed the charges, but late last week, the attorney general’s office filed a Motion To Reconsider, asking the judge to review his decision.

Stating that previous courts seem to differ from Judge Michael’s findings in some ways, the state’s attorney argued that the legal time limits are only meant to prevent “stale or fraudulent” charges from moving forward and that the Mr. Furlong’s actions are “essentially the same” in both the state’s original and later charges. In addition, previous court rulings have judged that “the distinction between principal (actor) and accomplice” in a criminal case isn’t significant to warrant a dismissal.

The case against Gaw is scheduled to move forward at a hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

The Londonderry man is a self-employed construction worker. Court records indicate that he has limited financial resources and is being represented by Jay Buckley, an attorney with the NH Public Defender’s office.

Gaw has pled not guilty to the charges but he allegedly sent an email message to Chief Cahill in March 2016 claiming full responsibility for the altered email and, in March 2017, signed a written confession to the same effect.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.

 

New York hedge fund under scrutiny after taking over ownership of Mount Sunapee lease

 

The above image is from the Mount Sunapee resort website.

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY – It was a meeting viewed both by complex business interests around the world as well as residents of the Sunapee area.

At a public information session held at the Mount Sunapee Resort’s base lodge last week, more than 100 people gathered to express concerns about the transfer of the lease for the state park’s popular ski resort to one of the largest alternative asset management firms in the world.

Och-Ziff Real Estate, which manages over $30-billion in funds from its offices in New York, London, Beijing, etc., took over the lease as part of a $456 million deal involving 14 properties, most of them family recreation areas, from the previous owner, a real estate investment trust named CNL Lifestyle Properties.

But several people who spoke at the NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources meeting held on Tuesday, Aug. 22, wondered about the hedge fund’s commitment to maintaining local management and operation of the state-owned recreational facility.

The question has become especially significant after Och-Ziff agreed recently to pay $413 million in federal government fines and other penalties in order to satisfy charges filed by the security and exchange commission that two former company executives operated a “far-reaching” bribery scheme, violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The SEC says the pair paid tens of millions of dollars to high-level government officials in several African countries – including the son of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi – to garner investments as well as other valuable resources, including mining deals, for the company.

“Our firm is not proud of what happened here and we take full responsibility,” David Levine, Och-Ziff’s general counsel, told the audience last week. “It’s a disappointing chapter in our 24-year history.”

Levine blamed “two rouge (former) employees” that acted outside company policy for the bribery incidents, which occurred between 2007 and 2012. He said that the company has instituted several measures to insure that a similar problem doesn’t occur in the future.

The operator of Mt. Sunapee will continue to be The Sunapee Difference, a company owned by Tim and Diane Mueller who have managed the property since 1998.

But Andru Volinsky, a member of the governor’s executive council and the official who asked for the public meeting, said Och-Ziff was making a smart business move. “When I see a company that’s instituted a lot of compliance measures, those are all big steps and you do it to avoid prosecution… Certainly, Och-Ziff has stepped up their game but it wasn’t a completely voluntary matter.”

The original, print version of this story, published in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, was ended here for space reasons. Below is additional information regarding the meeting.

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to delay prosecuting the company any further for three years as executives work to incorporate the new measures aimed at greater compliance with the federal laws, and assist the department of justice’s ongoing investigation.

For some residents, the issue of the new lease owner was not as important as how the transfer occurred. Typically, such arrangements like would be subject to approval by the governor and the executive council.

But Jeff Rose, the commissioner of the state’s department of natural and cultural resources, which has governing authority over state parks, and Anne Edwards, an associate attorney general, said the recent situation was exempt from that requirement because it involved, not the lease itself, but the entity that owned the lease and 13 other properties.

So, while Och-Ziff is now the owner of leaseholder, the lease itself is still owned by CLP Mount Sunapee, LLC, the same organization that has held it for the last nine years. (To the relief of some attendees, the operator of Mt. Sunapee will continue to be The Sunapee Difference, a company owned by Tim and Diane Mueller who have managed the property since 1998.)

At the same time, Commissioner Rose said that the state has already begun negotiations with Och-Ziff on the lease, hoping to alter it to make similar transfers require state approval in the future.

But Steve Russell, the president of the Friends of Mount Sunapee nonprofit organization, said no change is necessary. Speaking on behalf of his group, as well as the NH Sierra Club, Russell said that the property’s original 1998 lease indicates that state official should have reviewed the transfer before it occurred in April.

“Examining risk and financial security are essential to maintaining the public trust,” Russell said at the meeting. “It is standard practice in all state contracts.”

Russell also pointed out that the three-year prosecution agreement that Och-Ziff has with the department of justice i as insufficient as a guard against future misconduct by the firm . He said that Public Citizen, a nonprofit organization that monitors government activities, recently indicated that similar agreements are an “inadequate enforcement and oversight mechanism.”

“We believe the state has abandoned its oversight of the lease of the Mount Sunapee State Park,” Russell added. “We appeal to elected state officials to begin a complete and transparent review of this lease acquisition… so that the people of New Hampshire, who are the rightful owners of the Mount Sunapee State Park, can rest assured that our state park is in the hands of those worthy of the public’s trust.”

The story was originally published in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire on Tuesday, August 29, 2017.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑