BURLINGTON — Serving court documents to Hermitage Club founder Jim Barnes and the company that operated the now foreclosed private ski resort at Haystack Mountain has become increasingly difficult.
"ln the past approximately 18 months, the Windham County Sheriff's Office has received numerous summons and complaints and other court filings to serve on Hermitage lnn Real Estate Holding Company LLC and James Barnes as an individual," Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark wrote in an affidavit earlier this month. "I initially was able to serve Barnes, directly or through his legal counsel, or other officers of the corporation. In the past 12 months. I have not been able to serve Barnes or find any person or entity willing and able to accept service. We have at times received notice when Barnes is scheduled to be at [Windham Superior Court, Civil Division] in Newfane. However, Barnes has not appeared or been represented by counsel when we had paperwork to serve."
Clark's affidavit was included in a motion approved by a federal judge to allow a New York man who brought a lawsuit against Barnes and HIREHC more time to serve the court documents and the use of "alternative methods" to do so.
Shaun P. Golden "has shown good cause why leave should be granted allowing alternative methods of service of the complaint and summonses upon defendants," Judge Christina Reiss wrote in an order signed Thursday.
Golden — who is suing Barnes and Hermitage Inn Real Estate Holding Company LLC for fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment related to a real estate deal — has 90 days to serve Barnes and the company. He can post a copy of the complaint and summonses at "last known Vermont addresses" for Barnes in Wilmington and West Dover, send the documents to those two places, mail them to Barnes' attorney Bob Fisher of Brattleboro and publish a notice in the Reformer.
Barnes "has likely been attempting to evade service," Golden's attorney Shannon Bertrand of Rutland wrote in the motion. "It remains unclear where exactly Mr. Barnes currently resides. Attempts to serve Mr. Barnes at several different addresses have been unsuccessful. Therefore, neither personal nor abode service can be made with due diligence in this case and service by publication may be necessary."
Golden, who founded and manages Golden Wealth Properties LLC, alleges Barnes made representations that his company was in good standing before selling five lots to be developed at Stag's Leap, where the homeowners would be given "deedable admission" rights to the club. A $2.5 million purchase and sale agreement was signed by both parties in June 2017, according to the lawsuit, which chronicles a downward spiral for the Hermitage that ultimately led to foreclosure in February 2018.
The complaint was filed in January. Soon after, Golden hired Allied Legal Servers to provide paperwork to the defendants, according to the motion.
"Four separate attempts on four different dates were made to serve Mr. Barnes at his Avon, Conn. address ..." Bertrand wrote. "All four attempts were unsuccessful, and the process server noted that the house was for sale and did not appear to be presently occupied. The process server attempted to contact the listed agent and left a voice message but received no response."
A court clerk in Vermont provided Golden with addresses for Barnes and the company, according to the motion. Fisher "advised he was not authorized to accept service in this matter," wrote Bertrand.
Golden learned Barnes was scheduled to appear in civil court in Newfane in March and coordinated with the sheriff's office to appear at the hearing to serve the documents, according to the motion. But Barnes did not show up.
The sheriff's office "is familiar with matters involving James Barnes and various associated entities of the Hermitage development," Bertrand wrote. Golden was informed that trying to serve Barnes at the two Vermont addresses "would be futile based on their prior attempts to serve Mr. Barnes at those locations in other litigation."
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.