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Health of Vermont State Fair in question
Update: IRS places lien on Vermont State Fairgrounds

2/28/2014

By Linda McNatt

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An internal audit of the financial health of the Vermont State Fair could be completed in as little as two weeks, an attorney representing former fair manager Richard Rivers said this week.

Rivers was let go from his positions as Fair Manager and President of the Board of Directors at a special meeting held earlier this month by the Rutland County Agricultural Society's board of trustees. The society, made up of about 170 farmers and community members, owns and oversees the operation of the Vermont State Fair.

The fair, which lasts for two weekends, is held in September each year. It was first held in 1846 and has expanded from one day originally to its current run.

Matthew Hart, the Rutland attorney who is representing Rivers, said that Rivers has been with the fair for about eight years. He's from a prominent farm-based family and has always had a close connection to the state fair, added Hart

"We're allowing the internal audit to be completed and the fair to do whatever they feel is needed," said Hart. "We think it will be done real soon. We don't think there are any questions."

Roger Pike was appointed as interim president, according to a letter to the society's membership. Pike has declined to comment except to say, "We'll do the best we can."
Pike referred questions to the Agricultural Society's attorney, C. Stacy Chapman III.
"I'm not at liberty to discuss the details," said Chapman.

He declined to say if the internal audit was meant to search for missing funds. He refused to expand on the reason for the audit.

But the membership will hold a special meeting "within the next two weeks" to inform the public about the board's actions, said Chapman.

"The audit is pretty much up to date," he said. "No timetable has been set. It should be completed soon."

The letter from the Agricultural Society said the auditors were looking at "a number of issues."

"We realize that the content of this letter will likely come as a shock to the entire membership," it read. "We also understand and appreciate that you will have many questions concerning the events which led to the Board's actions."

The letter said that River's removal was "based on information presented and discussion among board members, a number of officers, the auditors of the society and legal counsel."

According to an article in the Rutland Herald, a letter Rivers wrote to the membership, dated Dec. 11 - the date of the organization's annual meeting - said the 2012-2013 financial statements had not yet been audited because of a "family emergency/family death," but the unaudited statements showed a profit of $25,000 for the fiscal year ending October 31.

According to the same article in the Rutland Herald, the society's IRS forms for 2010 - the most recent year available at the online database guidestar.com - put River's annual salary at $41,936.

Rivers was already general manager when he was elected board president to the Agricultural Society's board in December 2004 after a feud with his predecessor, former fair general manager Robert Kelley. The disagreement between the two men led to Rivers asking for an order against Kelley for trespassing. Kelley was forbidden to enter the fairgrounds.

Hart, River's attorney, said that Rivers plans to take some time off until the outcome of the audit is announced. Meanwhile, said Chapman, plans for the next Vermont State Fair in September are ongoing.

"We're just hoping for good weather," he said.

UPDATED 2/28/2014:
IRS Places lien on Vermont State Fairgrounds in Rutland.  Click here to read.

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