Lords of the Soil Pt III: Redemption or Damnation
The forensic audit fallout potentially has catastrophic legal consequences for Barre Inc.
Who’s involved – directly or indirectly – with Wonderland’s finances? The Assessors Office. The Treasurer’s Office. Town Accountant. Finance Committee. Board of Selectmen (including Town Administrator) and every department head. And let’s not forget the countless others who might have been aware of certain “kickbacks” all in the name of “it’s not taxpayer money so what’s the big deal“.
No doubt what’s quietly underway strikes at the very moral, ethical, and legal core of this Place.
And given the very real implications of the forensic audit the collective Silence of the Powers is not only inexcusable but also deeply troubling.
Recall, at the Special Town Meeting how this muckraker stood before 150 registered voters and called for FinCom Chairman David Tuttle’s immediate removal until the investigation has been completed and the results made public – for no other reason given his wife’s role as Treasurer from 200o – 2009. I specifically cited the Instrument of Redemption Rebecca Tuttle signed on December 20, 2005 removing the lien on the Trifilo’s property associated with the former Barre Wool site.
The release also provided the legal documentation that all terms had been satisfied. This would have meant Matthew Trifilo had re- paid the Town more than $256k in back taxes as stipulated in the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding that also abated more than $600k in interest owed.
Given this fact, it’s only logical that the forensic audit should examine all Instruments of Redemption Mrs. Tuttle authorized.
The following five, from 2001 – 2008, total approximately $20k. Admittedly, not nearly the sum associated with the Trifilo lien. However, these are legal documents. And equally relevant is the fact all of these liens are tied to some of Wonderland’s Powers.
- Regienus. A long-established local family. The Instrument of Redemption (IoR) was signed by Tuttle on January 23, 2001. According to other public records, a municipal lien certificate related to this very property was issued on November 1, 2001 (Worcester Registry of Deeds BK 25593, PG 78) showing the assessed value of the land (67 ac.) being just $86,200 with the building valuation being $154,106.
- South Barre Hydro Electric Company. It’s owned by David W., Lucas W. and Sara E. Wright. According to the company’s most recent annual report filed with the state, So. Barre Hydro Electric (SBHE) is a public utility company with a listed address of 48 Allen Drive. In February 2003, SBHE had two separate loans discharged totaling more than $350k. The tax taking was the result of of the company not paying property taxes on Parcel #1 which according to public records is 30 acres. (BK 7128/PG 374) The Instrument of Taking, signed by Marcia Langelier, shows this lot was only taxed at $2,253.65 in 2001. In October 2002 Tuttle issued the IoR. SBHE owns more than 50 acres which includes the So. Barre Mill Pond dam, the Powder Mill Pond dam and all underlying land of the Mill Pond and Powder Mill Pond. http://www.scribd.com/doc/81607304/So-Barre-Hydro-Electric-2010-Report
- Auto H2O Inc. It was owned by Jill O’Connor (wife of Mark O’Connor) of 865 Sunrise Avenue. An Instrument of Taking was issued in August ’98 by Tax Collector Marcia Langelier for nonpayment of taxes from 1996. In October 2002 Tuttle issued an IoR. The land comprised part of the former Pine Ridge Ski Area. In 1993 H2O purchased all the parcels which constituted the ski area (Map E lot 31, Map H lots 158, 174, and 175) for $250k; this happened despite the fact these lands were under CH61B (since ’88) and no sale notification or right-of-first refusal was ever forwarded to the Town as prescribed by law. Furthermore, the deed stated how “this transfer is not all or substantially all of the assets of the Grantor corporation“. In 1997 the Assessors Office (John Meilus, Michael Landry and Carol Goldsmith) would release all property under CH 61B without ever issuing any roll back taxes. Despite records showing H2O owned the ski area, Pine Ridge Ski Area Inc. would claim in later years ( Gail Anderson and attorney Paul Cranston were the company’s officers) that the operation was still theirs. In August 2003 the following transactions happened concurrently concerning the ski area properties: 1.) Jill O’Connor filed an estoppel affidavit relative to the ’93 mortgage, 2.) H2O received $285k from Pine Ridge, 3.)Pine Ridge received $285k from C.R. Development. a James Caruso company, 4.) C.R. Development received a $250k loan through Pine Ridge.
- Chase Farms Inc. The company was formed in 1977. Russell B. Chase, Charles R. Chase (former Board of Selectman who approved the infamous Memorandum of Understanding of ’97) and attorney Francis Cranston were the officers of record. According to the Commonwealth, Chase Farms dissolved in 1990 however it continued to operate as a farm along the Company Farm Road area. In fact, in 1997 the land (more than 270 acres) received a permanent agricultural preservation restriction (APR) making it the largest such tract in all of Wonderland. The CH 61A/APR designations would also greatly reduce any tax payments. Nonetheless, financial hardship would ultimately follow. Three times, beginning on ’05, Russell submitted a Certificate of Revival with the state in order to sell the company’s assets. Ultimately in ’06 the state Department of Agriculture intervened. Two years later DoA sold the property to John Hardaker and Barbara Fawcett in May 15, 2008 for only $390k; state Executive Director Sandra D. Adams signed the deed. Hardaker and Fawcett would take out a $475k loan to fund the deal; they would eventually meet the same financial fate as the Chase brothers three years later. But oddly, Tuttle issued the IoR to Chase Farms Inc. on June 4th, almost three weeks after Hardaker and Fawcett bought the property.
Perhaps all of this makes sense. If so then tax title records should also exist for these accounts – among other things.
But then again maybe this dark rabbit hole is just that – an endless dark hole…
Posted on February 14, 2012, in Town Matters and tagged APR, Attorney Paul Cranston, Auto H2O Inc., Barbara Fawcett, C.R. Development, Carol R. Goldsmith, CH 61A, CH 61B, Charles Chase, Chase Farms Inc., David Lucas, David Tuttle, forensic audit, Francis J. Cranston, Gail Anderson, Instrument of Redemption, Instrument of Taking, James Caruso, James E. Caruso, Jill O'Connor, John Hardaker, John Meilus, Lucas Wright, Marcia Langelier, Matthew Trifilo, Memorandum of Understanding, Michael Landry, Pine Ridge Ski Area Inc., Rebecca Tuttle, Russell Chase, South Barre Hydro Electric. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.