Whistleblower complaint filed against Hermitage management


DEERFIELD VALLEY — A former employee of Hermitage Club has filed a whistleblower complaint against the company's management.

Robert Balewicz, former manager of the Hermitage Club's real estate arm, Hermitage Club Realty LLC, alleges that he was fired after complaining of illegal accounting activities and illegal kickbacks. Balewicz filed a formal complaint with the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, stating the alleged illegal activities are related to real estate referral fees to Jim Barnes, the Hermitage Club's founder and CEO, and the company's legal department, accounting department and human resources.

OSHA acknowledged receipt of the "whistleblower retaliation complaint" in a letter dated Jan. 30. OSHA is responsible for enforcing the whistleblower provisions of the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, the letter says. The federal organization will be conducting an investigation.

The Hermitage Club released a statement on Tuesday saying it does not comment on personnel matters.

"We will confirm, however, that the complainant was terminated for cause after following institution of, and a failure to meet, the terms of a performance improvement plan, and after consumer complaints against the employee were brought to light," according to the statement. "Hermitage Club Realty has also filed numerous complaints with the Vermont Real Estate Commission concerning the employee in connection with alleged illegal real estate practices, improper transfer of real estate listings and inappropriate escrow procedures. The company vehemently denies any wrongdoing."

Balewicz was part of a team of new hires announced by the Hermitage in late summer 2017. The company also runs a private ski resort at Haystack Mountain, a golf course, and several inns and restaurants.

Hermitage officials previously said Balewicz would mostly be focused on private residence membership sales at the Hotel Hermitage, which is proposed for construction. For about 35 years, he worked with companies such as Weichert Realty, Merrill Lynch Realty and Prudential Realty. His job at the Hermitage was terminated on Dec. 18, 2017, and he filed a complaint with OSHA on Jan. 1.

Balewicz told the Reformer he and former Managing Director of Operations, John Santaniello, have also filed workplace harassment complaints with the Vermont Attorney General's Office and legal action regarding wrongful termination will follow. Balewicz said he has also filed complaints with the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation and the Vermont Real Estate Commission.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.



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