Syracuse, NY – The state Attorney General’s office has launched an investigation into possible misconduct by Cape Vincent officials as they consider plans to build more than 100 wind turbines in their town.
Opponents of the two proposed wind farms complained to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo that the planning process was tainted by conflicts of interest on the town board and planning board.
Two out of five town board members and three out of five planning board members either personally have agreements to lease their land to wind developers, or have relatives with wind leases. The officials or their relatives stand to profit if the wind farms are built as proposed by BP Wind Energy and Acciona SA. Nothing has been built yet.
Cape Vincent is situated at the junction of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The controversy over wind development has driven a wedge between year-round residents in favor of economic development and summer residents who say the 400-foot-tall wind turbines would mar the landscape. It was an issue in the November town supervisor race, won by a wind opponent. (Read the Feb. 14 story, “Windmills Stir Up a Storm in Cape Vincent.”)
The Aug. 13 letter from the deputy chief of Cuomo’s Public Integrity Bureau gives the town two weeks to hand over all documents and communications relating to wind farm development from Jan. 1, 2005 to the present. It also seeks interviews with members of the town and planning boards during that time period.
A spokesman for Cuomo’s office confirmed the existence of the investigation but declined to elaborate.
Town Supervisor Urban Hirschey called a special town board meeting for Tuesday in Cape Vincent’s recreation hall to discuss how the town will fulfill the state’s request for documents.
He also will propose a suspension of all action on the wind farms until the investigation is concluded. This would be the second time Hirschey has sought to halt wind development. On Jan. 14, a moratorium he proposed was defeated, 3-2.
“It’s unlikely that this will (pass),” he said Monday.
The matter may not come to a vote at all. Two of the board’s five members are on vacation and thus far unreachable, Hirschey said, so the board may not have a quorum.
In 2008, Cuomo announced the establishment of a wind industry ethics code that bans wind companies from hiring municipal employees or their relatives, or from giving them gifts. Companies also must disclose the names of all municipal officers or their relatives who have a financial stake in wind farm development. Both BP and Acciona agreed to the code and disclosed their relationships with municipal officials.
Cuomo, a Democrat, is running for governor on a platform that includes strengthening government ethics.
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