Litchfield Farmers’ Club is broke, $80,000 missing

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Litchfield Fair President Charlie Smith, left, attorney Kevin Sullivan and Vice President Richard Brown assert Wednesday that the Litchfield Farmers’ Club is missing more than $80,000 that should have been in its accounts this time of year. The agricultural exhibition fair that is scheduled to run Sept. 7-9 has been existence for 150 years, is broke, Smith said from the Pulling Ring in Litchfield. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

LITCHFIELD — The disappearance of $80,000 from the Litchfield Farmers’ Club bank accounts is under investigation, the treasurer has been fired and other officers are asking for donations so they can open the Litchfield Fair on Sept. 7.

Detective John Bourque of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday there is an active investigation into the money’s disappearance, but he declined to provide details.

Club President Charlie Smith said the Sheriff’s Office contacted him last week after Camden National Bank indicated some suspicious activity in the fair accounts.

Smith, who has been president since 2008, said he went to the bank last week and was provided with statements for the past year.

“I viewed them that evening and confirmed that there were things out of the ordinary, and I notified the other officers,” he said. “We had treasurer’s reports every month, and they don’t coincide with the bank statements.”

Club First Vice President Richard Brown said the loss is terrible.

“We can’t believe it,” he said. “I really haven’t been able to sleep since Charlie told us.”

“We have contracts; we have vendors that we’re obligated to,” Smith said. “It takes a great deal to get this fair off the ground.”

Smith and Brown said there is less than $1,000 in the treasury and they’re appealing for financial help.

The club held an emergency meeting Tuesday night and voted to fire the treasurer, who is not being identified. That person has held the office since 2014.

An interim treasurer has been appointed.

Attorney Kevin Sullivan, a regular attendee at the Litchfield Fair, has volunteered his services to help the club.

Standing inside the pulling ring at the fairgrounds Wednesday, Smith and Brown said they have arranged for Camden National Bank to set up a bank account to receive any donations made at any branch location.

Officials who run the Topsham Fair have offered their assistance as well.

While the investigation has just begun, Smith said, “we’re focusing on the fair and getting the fair off the ground.”

“It’s left the fair with an inability to open without financial assistance,” Sullivan said, although both officers said it will open.

“We’ll do it; we’re a bunch of farmers,” Brown said.

“We just need help,” Smith said. “This fair is a family fair, it’s like old home weekend and has been for years, and it’s going to continue.”

“The bottom line is, it takes a lot of money to get this fair off the ground,” added Sullivan. “They lost the savings they had to rebuild buildings here and to add infrastructure here. It’s all gone; the money was wiped out. We really do need people to step up. We need businesses to step up.”

Sullivan said the Litchfield Farmers’ Club has an insurance policy and club officials are looking into the specifics of the coverage.

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