Ellis County Counselor Bill Jeter has decided to withdraw from offering the county legal advice regarding the potential development of a wind farm southwest of Hays, citing a conflict of interest.
“It occurred to me Friday that Jeter Law Firm has clients in the project area, and the surrounding area, some for and some against,” Jeter said. “We have not canceled any of them in regards to CPV (Competitive Power Ventures), but it has the appearance of a conflict.”
Jeter discussed this matter with Ellis County Commissioners at Monday’s meeting during executive session.
While Jeter no longer will be offering advice on this issue, he will continue to serve as county counselor in all other facets.
“I thought it best that maybe county commissioners find another counsel to advise them in regards to that application of CPV,” he said.
The executive session was an insert to Monday’s meeting agenda because this matter needed to be addressed promptly, Jeter said.
The process of appointing someone else to act as counselor will not interfere with the date of the Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, which is slated for May 23, Jeter said.
County commissioners will need to appoint another individual to provide legal guidance regarding the wind farm and related zoning issues. While no replacement has been appointed, Jeter will help commissioners fill the spot as quickly as possible, commissioner Perry Henman said.
“There was some question over whether or not he could represent the county, with some of their past work done for other people,” Henman said.
“And every attorney in town might have that same problem. I don’t know.”
Suggestions for a replacement likely will be an item for discussion on a future meeting agenda, Henman said.
Because this item was discussed in executive session, county chairman Vernon Berens was hesitant to release details.
“I’m not really going to say anything about it because it was in executive session,” Berens said. “I think that what was in executive session should stay there.”
During the consultation, which lasted about 10 minutes, commissioners and Jeter briefly discussed who best could fill Jeter’s shoes, said commissioner Dennis Pfannenstiel.
“He said he’s going to step away from this particular issue, and so we discussed it and trying to find another lawyer who could assist the county as our representative on this particular issue,” Pfannenstiel said. “But all the names that surfaced were local attorneys. Many local attorneys and firms are associated with landowners in that particular area.”
A possible solution would be to hire an attorney from the Russell area, because firms in Ellis County are more likely to have conflicting interest, Pfannenstiel said.
Furthermore, Russell County also has countywide zoning, which means area law firms could be familiar with the policy, Pfannenstiel said.
However, nothing has been finalized, and the main objective is to find a replacement as quickly as possible.
“I don’t know if this will surface next week already, but the sooner the better,” he said, “because he’s going to have to sit down with zoning laws and regulations and get himself familiarized.”
By Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News
9 April 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding