Groundhog Day and the Donald Lee Case

The following editorial appears in the Spring 2010 issue of Ossipee Lake Report]

Ossipee — April 10, 2010 — Is there anyone in Concord who can explain why the Donald Lee environmental case is still unresolved after 22 years? The federal government has settled product liability lawsuits faster; and there have been so many phases to the Lee proceedings that chapter headings now seem appropriate.

Some of the original participants have died, and others have sold their property after giving up hope that Bradford Cove will ever be restored to the condition it was in before shorefront property owner Donald Lee changed the course of the Lovell River by constructing retaining walls.

Then there’s the $232,000 bill. That’s how much lake residents spent to take Lee to court after waiting 18 years for state officials to hold him accountable – a wait that continues.

On September 27, 2006 a judge found Lee responsible for causing major environmental damage to Ossipee Lake, and he ordered him to ”forthwith” remediate the damage and pay for it.

But the court victory was illusory. More than three years later there is still no remediation plan, and lake residents have had to spend thousands more to keep Lee’s lack of compliance on the court’s radar screen.

Progress in the case has become hypothetical. In January, for example, Superior Court Judge O’Neill issued a new ruling that essentially reiterated his September 27, 2006 ruling. Plus he gave Lee six more months to comply – one of a string of extensions, continuances and delays that have characterized the court’s handling of the case.

The absurdity of the Donald Lee matter reminds us of the movie “Groundhog Day.”

In the popular comedy, Bill Murray plays a TV weatherman forced to relive the same day repeatedly. Each morning the clock radio clicks on and it’s Groundhog Day all over again.

On Ossipee Lake, the calendar is stuck on September 27, 2006. Each morning is a new day but it’s still Groundhog Day; and our punishment is a court order with no bite and state officials with no bark.

[Click on image below to expand timeline]


  1. M Hayde 14 years ago April 13, 2010

    Why doesn’t it go to Federal Court???

  2. Aaron W. 14 years ago April 13, 2010

    Well, give it enough time and the Charlie Smith/Westward Shores debacle….err, bankruptcy….will rival this case in years spent in court and hundreds of thousands of dollars lost by those touched by the red nosed clown!

  3. Bill 14 years ago April 13, 2010

    Why can’t a contempt of court charge be leveled. I thought that a court order that is ignored becomes contempt of court. If it isn’t answered then a bench warrant can be issued and it now goes from being a civil matter to a criminal matter and the person can be arrested for not complying. Why is this so hard to get done?

  4. speachless 14 years ago April 14, 2010

    We can ask also why so many other violations resulted in swift actions, “restore to prior condition to violation” and fines levied against violators but this one…? And the beat goes on. Is there no justice? It would seem. Is there someone or others collectively obstucting the restoration of Bradford Cove? The evidence would lead those on the outside looking in to come to that conclusion. Where is the media? Crickets.

  5. freedom resident 14 years ago April 14, 2010

    How does the newly proclaimed 410′ rule affect this? Both Lee and the Bluffs must be affected.


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