Guest ediorial: That’s not the Barbara I know
Diane Thompson’s letter to the editor printed in the May 5-7, 2010 edition of the Park Record, entitled, "Barbara Zimonja Should Be Prosecuted," was uninformed, untrue, unfair and highly defamatory. As someone who has known Barbara for almost 30 years, I can’t allow such actionable commentary to go unanswered.
In her article, Diane Thompson went well beyond opinion and instead wrongfully and repeatedly accused Barbara of criminal fraud. Although Barbara was the CEO of Premier Resorts, she is not an elected official or a public celebrity and Ms. Thompson therefore has no privilege to make such libelous statements in a public forum. What’s worse, Ms. Thompson’s incendiary comments were made with no regard for the truth.
For example, although she admittedly was not even a client of Premier Resorts, Ms. Thompson repeatedly stated that Premier unethically and criminally breached its contracts by not escrowing rental payments. The truth is that Premier’s contracts (much like the contracts of banks, the Social Security Administration, and most other property managers in Park City) made no such promise to set aside or escrow funds, nor did the law require the company to do so. Instead, by contract with its guests, Premier earned 100% of the revenues it collected. By separate contract with condo owners, Premier was then obligated to pay an amount equal to a percentage of its collections. With no understanding of Premier’s contracts or the governing statutes, which are both based on the seasonal nature of nightly rentals and the tight margins of property/hotel managers, Ms. Thompson simply declared that Premier "stretched [its] operating expenses beyond budget." The truth is that Premier dramatically slashed its operating expenses in response to revenues that were unpredictably and without precedent more than 30% below budget.
Ms. Thompson then angrily declared that the County DA and Park City Police Department should have investigated and then filed criminal charges. The truth is that the police did investigate. They determined that this was a matter of civil contract and obviously found no criminal wrongdoing or any basis for prosecution. Moreover, Premier and its accounting department were subject to an investigation by a forensic accounting firm hired by the bankruptcy trustee. For added effect though, Ms. Thompson further compared Barbara to Michael Milken who infamously profited from his intentional deception. The truth is that Premier didn’t hide any money or cook the books. It didn’t change the way it conducted business. It always used its funds in an attempt to strengthen or maintain the company’s business. In fact, Barbara even used her own personal funds for the same business purposes. She gave everything to Premier, and as a result, when the business unexpectedly failed, she was financially ruined.
The truth is that Barbara Zimonja has worked tirelessly in this community for over three decades, consistently creating jobs and employing hundreds of people year after year. Long ago, Premier’s local subsidiary, Deer Valley Lodging, won the endorsement of Deer Valley Resort and has since helped put Park City on the map by providing first-rate accommodations for hundreds of thousands of visitors from all around the world. And year after year, DVL paid its owners everything they were owed.
At the same time, Barbara was always a generous philanthropist and model corporate citizen. She was a founding member of the Park City Fine Arts Foundation and trusted volunteer who consistently financed or sponsored numerous educational, musical and cultural organizations and events. Of course, Ms. Thompson didn’t care about any of those facts. The real reason for Ms. Thompson’s venomous attack against a wonderful person whom she doesn’t even know is because Diane Thompson’s own property manager, David Holland’s Resort Lodging (the second largest property manager in Park City), which had absolutely no affiliation to Premier, happened to fail at the very same time as Premier (and not coincidentally). Because of her own misplaced anger, it’s not enough for Diane Thompson that after Barbara did so much for so many people for so long, she has now lost her company, her money, her family’s money, her retirement, her health, her reputation, her friends, etc. No, Diane Thompson appointed herself judge, jury and executioner, and with no regard at all for the facts, intentionally published extremely defamatory comments in order to thoroughly trash what’s left of Barbara’s good name.
While Ms. Thompson should be sued for her defamation, she has nothing to worry about. The Barbara Zimonja I know is much too classy to sue for something like that.
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