By Cristina Kumka
A Small Claims Court judge in Rutland has ruled in favor of the Killington Chamber of Commerce (KCC) following a website contracat dispute that called the Chamber’s credibility into question.
On Feb. 19 of this year, Judge Jean Coloutti denied $5,000 in damages to Green Mountain Marketing & Advertising, Inc. (GMM,) owned by Bill Ackerman and Kasia Karazim, on the basis that the Chamber and GMM did not agree to the terms of the contract and the judge reported, “The court is quite baffled as to how a written contract came to exist.”
The case centers around an action by Jillian Vitagliano, a Chamber employee terminated at the end of 2013, due to, according to court records, “some concerns due to possible dishonesty involved.” According to court documents, Vitagliano signed a contract with GMM with a proposed startup cost of $12,750 for the design of a website for the Chamber on Aug. 5, 2013. Vitagliano gave GMM a check for $2,000 to get the project started.
GMM claims that Vitagliano told Karazim, one of the principles of the company, that KCC president Howard Smith approved the contract. Smith disputes that claim.
The court considered minutes from earlier in the year that showed the KCC board did approve $3,000 to $5,000 for the creation of a new website with the intent of giving the money to one vendor, called “The Chamber Team.” It was unclear who “The Chamber Team” was, according to court records, and whether the minutes that referenced it were valid–the court noted the minutes submitted were unsigned and there was no evidence that the minutes were ever approved by the KCC board.
“The Chamber Team” is currently under a contract with the KCC and created its current website, according to court records.
In her sworn deposition submitted by GMM to the court, Vitagliano admits having fabricated minutes for the Chamber based on emails, “but nowhere in her deposition does it state that she has the authority to enter into contracts on behalf of the Board of KCC,” according to the court.
The judge ruled that “GMM did not perform due diligence in establishing that Jill Vitagliano, the business/office manager, had the authority to enter into a contract that would bind KCC for $12,750.”
“To simply rely on an employee’s word, understanding that this employee reported directly to a board of directors, does not establish that due diligence was performed,” Coloutti wrote.
Chamber Vice President Vince Chiarella did not answer questions regarding the case but submitted an email statement from the Chamber. “We are pleased with the way the evidence was presented in Court,” Chiarella wrote. “We felt that the case arose out of an unfortunate misunderstanding that despite our good faith efforts, could not be resolved short of a trial. We are satisfied and bound by the court’s decision on the matter.”
GMM is preparing an appeal, according to Ackerman.
The Killington Chamber recently became the Killington Pico Area Association.
Cristina Kumka is a correspondent for The Mountain Times, Cristina_kumka@yahoo.com.