Environmental Remediation Left High and Dry Again

Manchester – May 8, 2009 – Citing a lack of judges and a backlog of criminal cases, Hillsborough County Superior Court last week for the fourth time continued a Motion for Contempt filed by Ossipee Bluffs Association (OBA) against environmental violator Donald Lee.

The continuance of the hearing means OBA’s contempt motion will enter its third year in the court system without a ruling, establishing a dubious new distinction for a case that is already well-known for being in its 22nd year without resolution.

Court records show that OBA first filed a Motion for Contempt in May 2007, saying Lee had failed to comply with a September 2006 court order that he “forthwith” provide DES with a plan to remediate the environmental damage he caused to Ossipee Lake by altering the course of the Lovell River with breakwaters.

Almost a year later, in April 2008, the court considered the Motion but held it in abeyance, giving Lee a deadline of 60 days to file a plan. After the deadline passed with no plan in place, OBA filed the Motion again and asked the court to put a lien on Lee’s property to cover the cost of the remediation.

A court hearing on the Motion was scheduled for November, rescheduled for January and continued to May 4th. A week before the May 4th hearing date the court continued the motion a fourth time.

Reached by phone, a Hillsborough County court official confirmed to Ossipee Lake Alliance that the continuance of the hearing is a result of the State’s lack of legal resources. The official said the Motion will be rescheduled, but could not say when.

News of the continuance comes in the wake of the State’s as yet unexplained March 5th agreement to allow Lee to remove $150,000 in equity from his property.

The agreement, signed by former DES official and current Associate Attorney General Richard Head, reduced the State’s lien on Lee’s property to $50,000 and subordinated it to a new bank mortgage that put the State behind the home equity lender in the event of a default.

After learning about the agreement, OBA, which had a lien request of its own pending in court, filed an emergency motion to attach the property, saying another member of the State Attorney General’s office, Assistant Attorney General Allen Brooks, assured the court last year that the estimated $675,000 remediation cost was “effectively secured” by the State’s lien.

On March 30, Superior Court Judge James D. O’Neill essentially blocked the home equity agreement by issuing an emergency relief order awarding OBA a $675,000 lien on the Lee property.

Lee’s environmental damage began in 1988 and continued for 18 years, according to court documents, filling OBA’s boat basin and swimming area with tons of debris and creating an artificial point of land in the lake that can be seen from space in satellite photos.

Frustrated by the State’s inability to bring Lee to account, OBA sued the Massachusetts resident in State Court in 2006.

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