It is with solemn thought after serving over what has been a life’s work, that I will no longer be running again as president of the Pine Hill Partnership or serving the city that I have for the greater portion of my life so dedicated myself.
The very public indignities and stunning betrayals this last year by the city, by my own Pine Hill Partnership Board, and by many close friends have sadly led me to struggle mortally to find or rebuild a life and resolve somewhere far from Rutland.
To date I have been censured from speaking publicly about these events, but as I take leave from my organization, I will at least set a portion of the record straight.
An informal email last year from Rec Dept. Superintendent EJ Bishop, Mayor Chris Louras, and the city attorney, though never having been an employee of the City, demanded that I step down as president from my own private organization due to unproven and unfounded appallingly investigated allegations by a young Rutland County Sheriff’s Department officer in certainly the most horrific event perpetrated upon me in my life. I quickly explained fully to the city what had in fact transpired and considered the matter closed, but months later in another informal email ultimatum, in disregard to any presumption of innocence, they again demanded that I step down from my private organization and further not show up to so much as volunteer in the park. I reluctantly bowed to not volunteering at my own spring work day so that my attorney could look into its legality, as no others are held to this standard in the community, but I refused to step down from my private organization.
In response the city called down to the City Police Department where recently promoted Sgt. Joseph Bartlett issued an All Points Bulletin for me across Rutland County. Upon reaching the station and asking why I was so publicly and dramatically summoned, I was told that I had not responded “correctly” to the Rec Department’s email. I was then issued a two year no trespassing warrant to the very park that I have for 29 years struggled to build and protect.
The Rutland Herald got wind of this and on the front page issued the story that would end my reputation, my honor, my 17 year computer business, standing within the community and everything I had built across my life. My exoneration 10 months later over extended evidence barely made page five of the paper or the forever Google results.
With regard to these actions I can no longer in good conscious or with any effectiveness continue my long-standing efforts within the community that I so greatly dedicated myself.
I am tired of the petty fights, the small egos and the political maneuvering for control of Pine Hill Park. For the past years the Rec Department has increasingly taken a stance of “thanks for your efforts, we’ll take it from here.” When the park was just an undeveloped portion of land, no one cared much for what I with my dog, had begun developing, but as the park gained in popularity and notoriety the ego’d scramble for control ensued.
The $70,000 in misappropriated funds that led to the resignation of EJ Bishop a month after my very public denigration and humiliation was to bulldoze the front entrance of the Park with its Master Gardener project gardens, hand built kiosk, and boardwalks, so that a Rec Dept. building could be erected in the failure of other efforts. I had fought profoundly against this and other transgressions such as the Rec Dept. trying to change the Park’s name, and other manner of poorly thought decision making and programming. Historically it is a slippery road when the executive branch of government begins to act as the judicial branch to seek its ends.
As I take my leave from that which I dedicated the better portion of my life at great personal, financial and professional cost, it is my solemn hope that those taking my place within the Pine Hill Partnership, its members and the public at large, will fight as I did time and time again, against the prevailing mediocrity that so widely pervades the Rutland decision making process and landscape, even if it is just within the bounds of this single park.
I am very sad and dismayed by the manner in which I leave this community — my home. I am very proud of the way I served it. I fought long and hard never making a dime for myself. I am proud of the many people, businesses, adolescents, schools and organizations that I mobilized to create what I did. I am proud of the eight years I spent working to bring a pedestrian bicycle path to its gates and the many other projects to which I volunteered my creativity, intelligence and passion.
I thank the many anonymous people that labored tirelessly to bring it all into creation and even those more visible ones who in the end should have treated me much better.
The world seems to me an exceedingly unjust place, one that builds people up so that it may rip them down when it is expedient to do so. My greatest crime may have been in trying to hold with grace the people of this community to a higher standard... to do better... to be better.
To the very few people who stood beside me in the ugliest abyss, my greatest appreciation, and to those that did not... do better... be better... if the chance should come again.
Michael Smith is the outgoing Pine Hill Partnership president.