Woodford County Board member Larry Whitaker was removed Thursday from his seats on three county committees after he tried to place the contentious El Paso wind farm project before the board, officials confirmed Friday.
Board Chairman John Krug said he pulled Whitaker, a 10-year veteran of the board, from the Road and Bridge Committee, the Conservation, Planning, and Zoning Committee as well as his seat on the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission because Whitaker overstepped his bounds and possibly opened the county up to litigation.
Whitaker called the move “political retaliation” and said the heart of the issue is that the board is not able to carry out its duties – namely represent the citizens of Woodford County by deciding on key issues.
On Wednesday, Whitaker made a motion at the county’s Road and Bridge Committee meeting to place the wind farm development on the board’s agenda and, before that, made a motion to approve the special-use permit for Navitas at the April County Board meeting only to have it ruled out of order by Krug.
Krug cited the fact that Whitaker twice now in recent weeks tried to bring the 40-turbine development before the board despite his directions not to as the main reasons for his decision. Whether he has the power to remove members from committees without first consulting the board itself remained unclear Friday evening.
Moving the project to the board before a final agreement between the developer, Minneapolis-based Navitas Energy, and road commissioners from El Paso, Palestine and Greene townships has been hammered out would go against the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals recommendation, Krug said, which called for an agreement to be in place as a condition for approval.
“This was after long and thoughtful consideration,” he said of his decision and again calling upon the two groups to negotiate a deal. “We would probably open the door to a non-defendable lawsuit.”
Krug told Whitaker of the decision during a brief meeting between the pair, State’s Attorney Michael Stroh and board member Thomas Karr.
Whitaker said the board, the county’s legislative body, has the authority to vote on important issues but its hands have been tied by waiting for an agreement between the road commissioners and Navitas. Instead of the board deciding, he stated the dispute between the two parties has been effectively orchestrating the board’s opportunity to discuss the project.
Furthermore, Whitaker added, the ZBA’s ruling is only an advisory recommendation, one the board is not obligated to follow. Calling the 3,000 acre wind project the “single biggest economic interest” in Woodford County, Whitaker said it’s time the full board had its say in the matter.
“All I want to do is get it (the El Paso wind development) out in the open,” he said. “From November 1 on, this thing as been ready to be brought to the board. . . . We can vote it up or we can vote it down but let’s vote on it.”
By Frank Radosevich II
Of The Journal Star
10 May 2008
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