Town of Gilford settles with strip club owner for $118,000

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — The town's insurance company has agreed to pay $118,000 to the owner of a Kimball Road strip club for economic and non-economic losses to settle a lawsuit regarding a drug raid in October of 2011 and the subsequent actions of the town in hindering the owner's ability to reopen it.
The settlement for Willard Drew, the owner of the former Mardi Gras North, brings to a close a nearly two-year-long legal battle between him, the state Drug Task Force and the town, including Selectman Gus Benavides, Town Administrator Scott Dunn and two former selectmen, Kevin Hayes and John O'Brien.
"The parties represent that the purpose of this agreement is to 'buy peace' from further dispute and controversy between and among the parties..." reads the settlement agreement, which is public by law.
The court ruling is final and prevents Drew from taking any further action against the town or the individuals named in the suit.
According to the pleadings filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire, beginning in June of 2011 the New Hampshire Drug Task Force began an investigation into drug sales activity at the Mardi Gras. The investigation culminated in a raid on Oct. 11, 2011, by members of the task force, the Gilford Police and two SWAT teams, which resulted in the arrest of five dancers and two patrons. Three of the dancers were working in the club that evening and other police agencies had warrants to arrest the two dancers and two patrons who were not at the club that night.
The problems for the town began when the three selectmen, the town's code enforcement officer and the town's health officer, went with the Gilford Police to the property and entered the building at some point either during or immediately after the police action.
Drew's suit claimed, among other things, that his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when town the officials conducted an inspection of the premises without any probable cause and contrary to established law. He also said his reputation and good standing in the community were irreparably harmed by the town because of actions that occurred in the year after the raid when he was trying to re-establish his business.
At the time of the investigation and raid, Drew was leasing the business to a company called the Mardi Gras North. He had no active role in its day-to-day operations. Although it continued to be open for a while, ultimately the Mardi Gras North closed and, unable to continue on alone and in the face a Liquor Commission inquiry that Drew said was triggered by the town, he voluntarily surrendered his liquor license in December of 2011.
Drew said his later attempts to reopen the business with a business partner were thwarted by the selectboard, which "placed unreasonable obstacles" against him by denying him an exotic dancing license.
He also claimed defamation because the board asked him to answer a number of questions about how his new business was to be operated and those questions included references to elements of a methamphetamine lab being found at the club. He said the questions also implied that the club was known as a place people could buy drugs and had "a recurring history of repeated violation of liquor laws related to serving visibly intoxicated persons and the consumption of alcoholic beverages by employees."
Drew claimed that these were not true, that the town should have known the implications were false and that it acted maliciously when asking about the claims and making them public. After an investigation and a hearing by the state Liquor Commission, Drew was cited for three minor violations and fined a total of $450.
Claims made against the state Drug Task Force and its agents were dismissed late last year because of sovereign immunity.
The suit says that of the $118,000, $92,000 will be paid to Drew and $26,000 will be paid to attorney David Bownes. Both portions of the settlement are taxable.

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Sheriff's Department gets vehicle for undercover investigations

LACONIA — The Belknap County Sheriffs Department will soon have a new vehicle which will remain unmarked and will be used in undercover operations.
County Commissioners agreed Tuesday morning to a request from Sheriff Craig Wiggin to accept the vehicle, which was seized by Stafford County in a civil forfeiture action and made available to other law enforcement agencies.
Wiggin said that the unmarked vehicle will be used undercover operations as part of an expanded role by the department in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies in drug investigations.
Details of the new law enforcement initiative will be announced by Wiggin and police chiefs in the county at 11:30 this morning following a meeting of the Belknap County Police Chiefs Association which will be held at the Alton Town Hall.

– Roger Amsden

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Elk and bagels - Belmont farmer, 84, says he enjoys raising elk as a hobby

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — Bo Gilbert has 33 elk roaming the fields at his game farm off from Shaker Road. He said one of the best parts of the day for him is the early morning feeding time when the elk see his pickup truck approaching the gate on South Road and they all run down the field toward him.
Gilbert brings them bread, bagels and other baked goods that he picks up at a discount outlet on Route 106. He is content to sit for an hour or more in his pickup truck watching the animals.
"They're fun to watch. I like the proud way they carry themselves with their head held high," he said.
A retired masonry contractor who is now 84 years old, and four months ago underwent a triple heart bypass operation, Gilbert said he grew up as a hunter of white-tailed deer and has always had a keen interest in wildlife.
"I've hunted in Colorado and Montana, but I always liked it better here," said Gilbert.
At one time, the farm raised only deer and was known as Bo Gilbert's Wildlife Outpost and Gilbert allowed hunters to take deer from his fields.
But that has long since changed.
"It's a hobby now. I raise them for fun," said Gilbert, who has raised deer for 30 years and in the last 15 or so years has turned the big field where his game farm is located over to the elk herd. He continues to keep white-tailed deer in another enclosed area on his property, but said they're no longer natives of the area.
"The deer are actually a New Zealand breed and I get them in Canada," says Gilbert, who adds that chronic wasting syndrome has been a problem for many native New Hampshire deer.
He said elk meat tastes even better than venison and there is a strong demand for it. When he harvests the elk, he takes them to Dave Albert in Bristol for processing.
Mature males grow to over 700 pounds, with most females around 500 pounds.
"They're big and strong and the males can be pretty dangerous," he said. "I have a friend who got gored by one of them and it took 41 stitches to fix him up."
A few months ago, he harvested six of the older bulls at the farm.

"They were getting mean and fighting a lot so it was their time to go," he said.
Gilbert is proud of the healthy condition of his herd.

"They look good and you don't see any ribs," he said. "A lot of people stop by with their children just to watch them out in the field and I like that."
Several of the cows are now showing signs of being pregnant and he expects that there will be as many as eight calves born this spring between the middle of May and the June 1.
One of those helping him with his daily feeding runs is Ted Woodward, who also helps Gilbert out in the summer by keeping his seven tractors, which are used for haying, in running condition.
"The elk like the hay but they really seem to thrive with the bread in their diet. I guess the grain is good for them and keeps them healthy," said Gilbert.

An elk at Bo Gilbert's game farm in Belmont takes a bagel from Ted Woodward 's mouth at feeding time. Gilbert has 33 elk living at the game farm which is located between South Road and Shaker Road. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)   Elk at Bo Gilbert's game farm in Belmont which is located between South Road and Shaker Road. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

 

An elk at Bo Gilbert's game farm in Belmont takes a bagel from Ted Woodward 's mouth at feeding time. Gilbert has 33 elk living at the game farm which is located between South Road and Shaker Road. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Elk at Bo Gilbert's game farm in Belmont which is located between South Road and Shaker Road. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

 

Elk at Bo Gilbert's game farm in Belmont which is located between South Road and Shaker Road. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

 

 

An elk at Bo Gilbert's game farm in Belmont takes a bagel from Ted Woodward's mouth at feeding time. (Roger Amsden photo for The Laconia Daily Sun)

84-year-old Bo Gilbert of Belmont watches elk at his game farm, which is located between South Road and Shaker Road and is home to 33 elk. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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