Crime and Justice

Banyai registers Slate Ridge as a nonprofit with Secretary of State’s office

Daniel Banyai speaks to a group at Slate Ridge in Pawlet. Facebook photo

Daniel Banyai, who operates Slate Ridge, an unpermitted firearms training center, has registered the operation as a nonprofit business with the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office. 

Banyai has held paramilitary “gunfighting” training classes on his private property in West Pawlet for several years, prompting fear among neighbors. A Facebook page for the operation accumulated several thousand “likes” before it was removed.

An environmental court judge recently ordered Banyai to close the facility, remove all buildings without permits and pay the town $46,603, a move that Banyai is challenging before the state Supreme Court later this month. 

Banyai has long argued that Slate Ridge does not violate local zoning laws because the operation is not a business but rather a recreational shooting range to which he invites family and friends. He has said that he doesn’t charge fees from those who take his classes and use his ranges. 

A brief filed to the Supreme Court by Banyai’s attorney, Middlebury-based Cindy Hill, asks the court to declare that “Daniel Banyai’s private, non-commercial, recreational shooting ranges are not under subject matter jurisdiction of the Town or Environmental Division.”

Banyai’s registration, filed Aug. 25, calls his business “Slate Ridge Incorporated.” The description reads, “charitable organization, church or religious organization, or private foundation.” Under “type of business,” he listed “domestic non-profit corporation.”

Eric Covey, chief of staff to Secretary of State Jim Condos, said in an email Wednesday that the office, particularly the Corporations and Business Services Division, “essentially acts as a filing cabinet for business filings. The filing office does not make a determination or comment on what entity type a business/corporation can or should register.”

If a new business owner asks the office for guidance, staff advise them to discuss their options with legal counsel to make the right choice, Covey said. As long as the form is filed correctly and a fee is paid, the office does not have “authority to investigate, enforce or audit the filing representations made by businesses/corporations.” The office would refer cases of suspected fraud to the Attorney General’s office.

“Similarly, our office does not have the authority to regulate, investigate, or enforce any laws related to conduct of a business or business owner (the exception being if it is a licensee from our Office of Professional Regulation),” he wrote.

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