Judge sets deadline on Hetty Green Motel appeal

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NEWFANE — A Windham County judge has given a St. Johnsbury woman until the end of the week to comply with a court order or see her appeal regarding the Hetty Green Motel probate case dismissed.

Windham Superior Court Judge Robert Gerety ordered Kimberly Crosson to supply the court with required documents and follow rules of civil procedure regarding the appointment of a probate case administrator in the case of Maria Zdunek, the late owner of the Hetty Green Motel. Crosson failed to show up at a hearing on her appeal Friday in Windham Superior Court, sending an email in the morning to court officials that there had been a death in the family.

"It's disturbing to me Ms. Crosson apparently just decided not to come," the judge said at one point.

"I expect the court will never get cooperation from Ms. Crosson," the Rockingham town attorney, Stephen Ankuda said.

Crosson is appealing a decision by Windham Probate Judge Jody French who granted the town of Rockingham's request that Springfield attorney Patrick Ankuda be appointed administrator of Zdunek's estate. Patrick Ankuda is the law partner of Stephen Ankuda, the Rockingham town attorney. Crosson, who has declined to talk to the Reformer, wants to be administrator of Zdunek's estate, even though Zdunek's two children support the town's legal efforts.

During a hearing in Windham Superior Court Friday, Stephen Ankuda was joined by Michelle Zdunek, Maria's granddaughter and guardian at the time of her death, on the telephone. Crosson did not show up for the hearing, but sent an email earlier in the day saying she wouldn't be there because of a death in the family. In her email, she asked for a continuance, and said if it wasn't granted, then her email should be considered a request for another appeal.

Gerety said Crosson, who is representing herself, wasn't following basic requirements set down by the court.

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"The motion is deficient," he said. He said she hadn't met one May 29 deadline, and he said the court did not accept digital filings without prior approval. But he gave her until July 12 to file the required documents or said her appeal will be dismissed "without further notice."

Crosson had been required to file a transcript of any proceedings held already in probate court, as well as a "statement of the exact questions that she wished to be addressed on appeal."

"The appellant failed to file the required items," the judge ruled.

During the hearing on Friday, Stephen Ankuda noted that Crosson "has no connection to the estate," but is now claiming to be a creditor of the Zdunek estate because she did some work cleaning up at the Hetty Green Motel. Crosson said she wants to start a homeless shelter or a shelter for veterans at the motel and said she will rely on volunteers to do it.

The town of Rockingham is the lead creditor in the estate, and it says it is owed about $45,000 in back taxes. Maria Zdunek had filed for bankruptcy several years ago, and refused to pay property taxes for years as a result. The village of Bellows Falls is owed back payments for water and sewer fees for the motel, where Zdunek lived before she was admitted to a Brattleboro nursing home in 2018.

Town officials have said repeatedly they do not want to own the dilapidated motel, but they want to have a say in its future since the building is at the entrance of the village of Bellows Falls.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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