• State Fair president removed from post
     | February 19,2014

    RUTLAND — Richard Rivers has been removed as head of the Vermont State Fair, and the organization is conducting an internal audit.

    The board of trustees of the Rutland County Agricultural Society voted at a special meeting Feb. 8 to remove Rivers from his posts as the organization’s president and as general manager of the fair. Roger Pike was appointed as interim president, according to a letter to the society’s membership.

    “I have said that I wish I had stayed in bed, but I will do it,” Pike said Tuesday. “We’re going to do the best we can.”

    Pike was tight-lipped about the reason for the change of power, referring questions to the organization’s attorney, Stacy Chapman.

    Chapman was similarly reticent, saying that an internal audit was underway and results would be presented to the society’s membership in the coming months.

    Rivers referred all questions to his attorney, Matthew Hart, who could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

    The letter 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 stated the removal “was based upon information presented and discussion among board members, a number of officers, the Auditors of the Society and legal counsel.”

    A letter Richards wrote to the membership, dated Dec. 11 — the date of the group’s annual meeting — said the 2012-13 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 Oct. 31.

    The society’s IRS forms for 2010 — the most recent year available at the online database guidestar.com — put Rivers’ annual salary at $41,936.

    Rivers was already general manager when he was elected board president in December 2004 after a feud with his predecessor, Robert Kelley. The dispute between the two men saw Rivers taking an order against trespass on Kelley, forbidding him to enter the fairgrounds.

    Prior to that election, Kelley argued that having Rivers in both positions would undermine the checks and balances within the organization, giving one person too much power.

    A fair worker also claimed at that time that about half the employees of the fair were Rivers’ relatives. Chapman said Tuesday he did not know how many members of Rivers’ family the fair employed.

    @Tagline:gordon.dritschilo @rutlandherald.com

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