By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
GILFORD – With the resignation of Gunstock Area Commission Chairman Peter Hess on Friday and the former Gunstock Mountain Resort management team indicating they would return to work immediately if Dr David Strang also resigns, the two remaining members gave Strang until 5 p.m. to step down and pleaded with lawmakers and the public to make it happen.
Commissioners Jade Wood and Doug Lambert, saying the hours were critical to reopening the Belknap County-owned recreation area, urged remaining employees, members of the legislative delegation and the public to pressure Strang to tender his resignation immediately at an emergency meeting Friday at Ski Region.
At 5:20 p.m., Wood said Strang had not resigned, but she and Lambert were “tripling” their attempts to have him removed.
Lambert said if Strang, who attended the meeting remotely via Zoom and logged out before the meeting ended for the second time in a week, abruptly left a meeting during the leadership crisis, he would be known as the man who destroyed Gunstock.
About 80 members of the public and Gunstock employees attended what was called an emergency meeting of the Gunstock Area Commission held on Friday.
Most of the meeting was held in closed executive session.
The station is now closed and chaos ensued after senior management and commissioner Gary Kiedaisch resigned at a July 21 meeting.
Members of the public have said the county-owned recreation area, which made $9 million in profit this year, was being hijacked by political extremists who are free states and libertarians who want the county’s ski area of Belknap be praised.
Chief Executive Tom Day and his entire management team tendered their resignations and walked out of a July 21 meeting saying they were fed up with the board’s leadership not allowing them to operate effectively and were in fact trying to do their work.
Emerging after more than two hours of closed session on Friday, Wood and Lambert said the four commissioners had taken care of some bank transfers that were due to take place during the closed session. They reported that during the closed meeting, Hess resigned.
Several lawyers also attended the meeting, they said.
Wood read a prepared statement thanking the employees who were there for staying at work and the public for also staying “to hear the truth about what’s going on here.”
A Christian music festival for young people, “Soul Fest”, which is expected to attract more than 6,000 people to the recreation area for three days next week, is looming and going ahead, but without management staff, while the rest facilities of the complex is closed, is problematic.
“The gravity and enormity of the impending festival,” led to the ultimatum, Wood said.
“I believe today was a good day because today we are going to find out…the truth about what our partnerships and our state and local county advocates are really made of,” Wood said. .
She said that at 12:08 p.m. former Commissioner Ness tendered his resignation.
Two minutes later, she said Strang “abruptly left the meeting for the second time this week, once again neglecting his obligation to perform his duties despite our attempts to impress on him the seriousness of his…his own role. So at this point this is our open call, our plea as Commissioners on behalf of Commissioner Lambert and myself to members of the delegation to step in. This is the 11th hour for Gunstock. Today at 5 p.m., we’ll find out exactly who represents Gunstock, (Belknap County), its taxpayers, our neighbors, our local schools, our kids who may have wanted to ski for their senior year at the Meister Cup. who stands with our local businesses and the businesses of this state and we’re going to find out who represents our customers,” Wood said.
Wood noted that she was pregnant and expecting twins in two weeks, and had been exhausted for eight days when she and Lambert had to replace deceased administrative staff.
Wood continued “so once again please support me in demanding the resignation of Commissioner David Strang today and every second this community suffers due to his inept leadership, and so many other things …until the ink dries on his resignation letter”.
His comments were met with resounding applause.
Lambert noted that Thursday night he was reading about former President Richard Nixon and how everyone had lost faith in him and how Barry Goldwater, another Republican, was instrumental in getting Nixon to step down and do the right thing for the country.
“What we ask,” Lambert said, “you all become Barry Goldwaters and help us with this absolutely necessary task. We don’t have days, we literally have hours.
The immediacy was impressed with the four, Lambert said, as he was in possession of signed documents from the management team indicating they would be ready to return without Strang and Ness as commissioners.
The team agreed to return with no further requirements. There was no deadline in their offer and Wood and Lambert said there was no insurance deadline, but the 5 p.m. deadline was meant to force the situation to an end.
Lambert said the promise from former employees included the ability to produce a chart listing all the requirements needed to operate the recreation area safely.
Lambert said he had many conversations with Day and the assurance that he would be back in a few days.
“If we can make that happen. If this Strang guy does the right thing and makes it happen, I think it will lead to a lot of the steps needed to open up this mountain,” he said.
Lambert noted that it would be possible to have a chairlift, zip line, roller coaster and the treetop aerial adventure center open in time for Soul Fest.
“One more thing,” said Lambert, “and I’m going to be very cold here. If Mr. Strang doesn’t resign, I’d make a fair bet that it will forever be said that David Strang was responsible for the end of Gunstock Mountain.
“It’s critical that we get the management team back here,” Lambert said.
Gunstock has been mostly closed and in turmoil since the resignations last week, but the county-owned facility has also sparked a political controversy that has pitted Gov. Chris Sununu against fellow Republican Mike Sylvia, R-Belmont, chairman of Belknap County. delegation that appoints the Commissioners of Gunstock.
Sununu called Sylvia, a Free Stater, and two other Republican House members “crazy,” and Sylvia released a copy of a $500 check the commission sent to Sununu’s campaign in 2020.
“Because the guns are owned by Belknap County, all of its funds are public funds and the use of public funds to support a political campaign is clearly inappropriate and possibly against the law,” Sylvia said in a statement. published.
Sylvia said that because the commission is in the midst of an audit and “an internal legal investigation authorized by ALL Gunstock commissioners, this and other financial irregularities are coming to light.”
Sununu’s campaign manager said there was nothing wrong with the commission donating to his campaign.
But Republican gubernatorial candidate Karen Testerman called for an outside investigation into the check signed by Tom Day, who was then Gunstock’s chief executive.
Gary Kiedaisch, who resigned as commissioner last week, had said on Thursday that he wanted to withdraw his resignation, but there was no mention of him at the meeting. Wood acknowledged on Friday that Kiedaisch had publicly resigned.