Diaz ordered not to destroy any records

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copyright the Chronicle August 9, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

NEWPORT — Former Coventry Town Clerk and Treasurer Cynthia Diaz has been ordered not to destroy any more town records or documents and to hand over any still in her possession.

“Defendant has admitted under oath to having destroyed at least some electronic documents,” Orleans Superior Court Judge Robert Bent said in a written order issued on August 3. “To be clear, defendant may not destroy any document or file.”

He ordered Ms. Diaz to turn over all written and electronic town records in her possession by August 20 in preparation for another hearing on August 25.

In court on August 1 for a hearing in the town’s civil suit against her, Ms. Diaz admitted to throwing away a thumb drive containing town financial records after she left office.

“Generally in litigation, we don’t destroy documents,” Judge Bent told Ms. Diaz at the time. “It leads to questions … it shifts the question to the person who destroyed it.”

Ms. Diaz’ management of the documents in her keeping has been a recurring theme ever since forensic accountant Jeff Graham’s audit last year shone the spotlight on irregularities in Coventry’s financial records.

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Dairy Air Wind takes down its Holland MET tower

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copyright the Chronicle August 9, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

HOLLAND — Dairy Air Wind has taken down a controversial wind measurement (MET) tower in Holland.

The tower stood in a cornfield on land owned by Linda Champney and leased to Brian Champney of Dairy Air Farm. Renewable energy developer David Blittersdorf is backing the project.

The Public Utilities Commission opened an investigation on July 24 into whether the developer put up the tower in the wrong place — and whether the tower should have been put up at all while a series of motions for reconsideration were on the table.

MET towers are put up to measure wind before going ahead with the installation of a commercial wind development. In December, Dairy Air Wind applied for a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) for a single 2.2-megawatt power-generating turbine.

According to site documents, the CPG application for the power-generating turbine is a separate docket, independent of the fate of the MET tower’s CPG.

Dairy Air Wind was given until August 3 to answer the commission’s questions about the location of the MET tower and exactly when it was put up. But instead, on that day, it took the tower down.

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Diaz says she threw thumb drive away

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copyright the Chronicle August 2, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

NEWPORT — Former Coventry Town Clerk and Treasurer Cynthia Diaz said in court on Tuesday that she has destroyed at least one thumb drive, possibly the one the select board and auditor Jeff Graham have been looking for.

Ms. Diaz was in Orleans Superior Court for yet another hearing in the civil suit that the town filed against her last December. The suit asked, among other things, for the return of town records in Ms. Diaz’ possession.

“I was no longer in office, I didn’t need it any more,” Ms. Diaz told Judge Robert Bent when he asked about the fate of the removable computer storage that she is alleged to have used to carry work back and forth from the Coventry town office to her home computer.

“I threw it away,” Ms. Diaz said. “It was mine, and I was no longer employed by the town.”

“Generally in litigation, we don’t destroy documents,” Judge Bent told her. “It leads to questions … it shifts the question to the person who destroyed it.”

Initially, it didn’t sound like Ms. Diaz was talking about the same drive that the select board has been hunting for the past year or more.

Ms. Diaz said that all she had on the drive was an Excel spreadsheet and the template she used to create receipts, adding that she overwrote the information as she recorded new transactions that came through the office.

“It wasn’t a running spreadsheet,” she said.

Judge Bent interrupted her to put her under oath.

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Bleak outlook for forestry industry

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copyright the Chronicle August 2, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

Nearly 50 years ago, a few weeks out of high school, Ken Davis had a tiff with his farmer father that set him on a new career course. Instead of a farmer, he became a logger.

And for nearly half a century that’s pretty much how he’s made his living.

Until recently, that is, when the venerable logging industry went to pieces, especially in the Northeast Kingdom.

“I gave it up over a year ago,” Mr. Davis said in a recent interview. “I logged for 48 years. It’s pretty bleak out there from a logger’s point of view.  I couldn’t make a profit anymore.”

He still operates a logging station in Hardwick, meaning he takes in wood from loggers, then finds a market and distributes it.  But even that has become increasingly precarious, he said.

“We aren’t sure what the future is going to bring. We did find a pine market up in Maine. That’s helped us. We’re still in business, but it’s a dire situation.”

 

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A new kind of prescription — local veggies

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copyright the Chronicle August 2, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

NEWPORT — Sometimes food is the best medicine.

And North Country Hospital has found a way to provide healthy food to at least a few of the people who need it most here in the Kingdom.

Last Thursday, the hospital launched a program called Health Care Share, that will put a weekly bag of locally grown fruits and vegetables into the kitchens of people suffering from chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, said Community Relations Director Wendy Franklin.

Doctors “prescribe” the fresh produce for their patients who meet health and eligibility guidelines, she said.

The program, which is by pre-registration only, is already filled for the year.

All told, it will serve about 80 families.

The majority of the people signed up for the Health Care Shares program pick up their bags at the hospital in Newport. But a small group will be served at the Barton clinic.

When participants come to pick up their vegetables, they get a chance to taste samples of the week’s featured foods. Last week, that meant sticks of raw vegetables and a cilantro-lime dressing to dip them in.

Everyone got a newsletter with recipes and cooking tips, and a manual full of nutrition information and ideas for healthy eating.

“Some of these foods are new to people,” Ms. Franklin said.

 

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Moose population drops well below target level

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copyright the Chronicle August 2, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

CRAFTSBURY — The number of moose in Vermont has dropped well below the target set by wildlife biologists, and the road to recovery is unclear. That was the grim news offered to the 50 people who showed up at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center on July 27 for the most recent in a series of lectures about the northern forest.

Biologist Cedric Alexander, who leads the moose project for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, retold the recent history of the largest member of the cervid family, a group that includes deer, elk, and reindeer.

Unlike their more familiar and numerous cousins, the white tail deer, moose are creatures of the forest, Mr. Alexander said. While deer can thrive on a landscape that is as much as 50 percent open land, a moose needs trees to survive.

When European settlers arrived in Vermont they quickly cleared the state’s forests for lumber and to create fields in which to graze sheep. The moose retreated north where conditions were more to their liking.

They find their food in the woods, dining on young trees in the summer and such food as they can find in winter.

Moose are hearty eaters consuming about 3 percent of their body weight each day.

A 1,000-pound cow can consume up to 100 pounds of green food each day, about equivalent to 30 pounds of dry weight, Mr. Alexander said.

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Barton Olympians share past, present, and future

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copyright the Chronicle July 26, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

BARTON — “I hate the cold,” Barton native and Olympic biathlete Susan Dunklee said.

The thing she likes least about skiing is not the hours of training, or the five months of the year she spends on the road far away from friends and family.

It’s being cold — especially when she flops down on her belly in the snow clad only in thin spandex to sight her gun before each race, Ms. Dunklee said.

“In cross-country, we could wear mittens,” she said. “In biathlon, I have to wear gloves so I can shoot.”

It’s a cold sport, agreed fellow Oympian Ida Sargent, a cross-country skier.

“Skiing in spandex is cold, even with mittens,” she said.

Ms. Dunklee and Ms. Sargent were speaking to about 30 people who came to the Crystal Lake Historical Association museum on Sunday to meet Barton’s three Olympic skiers.

Alongside them was Ms. Dunklee’s father, Stan Dunklee, who competed in the Olympics as a cross-country skier in 1976 and 1980.

Mr. Dunklee grew up in Brattleboro. Despite the fact that his older brother Everett competed in the 1972 winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, Mr. Dunklee never tried cross-country, or Nordic, skiing until he was in high school.

“I immediately fell in love with the sport,” he said. …To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

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Defendants can have long jail wait before trial

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copyright the Chronicle July 26, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — According to the U.S. and Vermont constitutions, anyone charged with a crime is entitled to a speedy trial by a jury of his or her peers. But that basic promise can’t be kept in Orleans County because of a lack of money for lawyers, judges, and other court employees, say those who know the system best.

At present, more than 40 people who have pled innocent to crimes in Orleans County Superior Court are behind bars waiting for their trial because they cannot make bail. Some have been waiting for years, and with a court that can manage only a few trials a month they may be waiting for quite a while longer.

The judge in Orleans County Superior Court, the Orleans County State’s Attorney, and the county’s public defender have different views of the situation, but all agree that the judicial system needs more resources if it hopes to break the logjam.

While a vast majority of criminal cases are settled through negotiations resulting in a plea agreement, the bail system was never intended as a means to pressure people to give up their right to a trial.

In fact, the Vermont Constitution gives a substantial amount of attention to the matter of bail. It specifically bans “excessive bail” and sets strict limits on the ability of a judge to hold a person without bail.

The two circumstances in which that is permitted are cases where the penalty is death or life imprisonment, or in acts of violence against another person. In either case, the judge has to determine that the evidence of guilt is strong.

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Lake Region considers hiring police officer

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copyright the Chronicle July 26, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

A proposal to bring a deputy from the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department into the school as a resource officer met with questions at the Lake Region Union High School’s board meeting on July 20.

The board invites the public to attend its next meeting in August in hopes of getting feedback from parents.

North Country Union High School has had a resource officer for several years, first a Newport City police officer, and then a sheriff’s deputy.

The move was controversial at first, Lake Region Principal Andre Messier said. But when it looked as though North Country might lose its resource officer Mr. Messier said, the community actively came out in support of the program.

“We’ve touched base with a number of schools,” Lake Region vice-principal Sharon Gonyaw said. “They all started out with the same reservations.”

Deputy Kyle Ingalls, the current resource officer at North Country, came to the Lake Region meeting to talk about how the program works.

A 2006 graduate of Lake Region, Deputy Ingalls said he provides onsite law enforcement services along with counseling and mentoring students as needed.

He also teaches drug awareness and driver safety classes on campus.

“We have counseling support already,” Mr. Messier said.

But he went on to add that there are social pressures affecting students these days — things happening in the school and in the parking lot that go beyond what traditional counselors can deal with.

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Coventry gets its checks back

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copyright the Chronicle July 26, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

NEWPORT — In a ten-minute hearing on Monday, Orleans Superior Court Judge Robert Bent ordered a local bank to return about $5,100 in town money that former Coventry Town Clerk and Treasurer Cynthia Diaz deposited in an account she opened on June 14.

“We have our money back,” Coventry Select Board Chair Mike Marcotte said by phone on Tuesday.

Community National Bank, which is also where the town of Coventry keeps its money, froze the funds as soon as they were deposited and notified the select board.

But bank officials couldn’t return the money to the town without a court order.

On July 7, attorney Paul Gillies, who is representing the town in its ongoing civil suit against Ms. Diaz, filed a motion with the Orleans Superior Court’s Civil Division.

In the motion, Mr. Gillies says that Ms. Diaz opened an account called the “Cynthia Diaz tax escrow account” on June 14. She deposited three checks.

The checks were written by former town attorney Bill Davies from the town’s tax escrow account, which he maintained until earlier this year.

They were payable to “Cynthia Diaz, Treasurer.”

“Ms. Diaz’ actions were unauthorized, as she was no longer holding town office at the time she deposited the checks,” the town’s motion says. “Her creation of a new fund was in violation of the statute that requires agreement with the select board for any investments.”

The motion goes on to explain that Ms. Diaz’ positions as town clerk and treasurer were vacated under state statute on June 9, after she was unable to raise the bond required of all public officials.

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