ROCHESTER — The Rochester Fair is set to begin on Sept. 12 and as volunteers work to bring new life to the event, the organization’s former shareholders and directors are arguing they are owed more than $102,000.
Former Rochester Agricultural and Mechanical Association president Norman Vetter, former vice president Wilfred Creteau, former treasurer Steve Beaudoin, former clerk Daniel Harkinson and former director Daniel Burke claim they loaned the association money for the nonprofit agricultural fair in 2016 and 2017 when it was having financial difficulties.
They say there was an agreement that the money would be repaid upon demand and filed a lawsuit at Strafford County Superior Court earlier this year.
When the fair was cancelled for the 2017 season, Vetter said the cancellation was in part because of outstanding debts owed to the board of directors. The beloved event was re-established last fall after about 150 volunteers rallied to bring it back to life.
Attorney Marcia Brown represented the Rochester Agricultural and Mechanical Association in court for a hearing on the civil lawsuit on Friday. She said there are promissory notes for $56,634.81, but only three of the checks, totaling $51,000, contain the word “loan” in the memo line.
Brown said she is still hopeful the parties can resolve their contract dispute, but called the situation unique because proper record keeping has not been shown and the plaintiffs have provided no minutes of board meetings which demonstrate the officers at the time had the authority to enter into any of the alleged agreements.
“This is not typical. It is not typical to have done what they did with this charity, but I don’t know that atypical necessarily means something is wrong. The conduct from the old directors resulted in the situation we are in right now,” Brown said on Tuesday.
Brown said this is an example of why nonprofit organizations need to make sure they follow state law and record keeping formalities to avoid potential problems.
“When you don’t tend to those formalities, you can come up with a situation like with what we’re dealing with,” Brown said. “It’s unfortunate.”
The 143rd Rochester Fair is scheduled for Thursdays through Sundays from Sept. 12 through 22.
For more information about the fair visit www.rochesterfair.com.