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CROH accuses Langtry of conflict

HAMMOND – Concerned Residents of Hammond (CROH) are accusing Councilman James E. Langtry of having a conflict of interest with a company that wants to build a wind farm in the community.

CROH President Mary E. Hamilton said in a letter sent to the Hammond town board that Mr. Langtry’s sister, Susan Dunham, signed a lease with Iberdrola Renewables.

The letter referred to an Aug. 15, 2010 article in The Journal, and to five new Hammond wind leases that were filed with the St. Lawrence County Clerk’s office in Canton on July 29, 2010 by Atlantic Wind, LLC (a.k.a. Iberdrola Renewables, Inc.).

“A closer examination of those leases reveals they were actually signed anywhere from one to two years prior to being recorded. An even closer look at one of the leases reveals that a current town board member is related to one of those leaseholders,” the letter reads.

According to Mrs. Hamilton, the lease between Iberdrola Renewables and Susan Dunham, of 495 county Route 6, Hammond, was signed on Oct. 9, 2008, and officially received on Dec. 18, 2008 by Iberdrola in Oregon.

“This was six weeks after the NY State Attorney General’s Office original issuance of it’s Code of Conduct for Wind Farm Development was signed by First Wind and Noble Environmental (Oct. 2008) and six months prior to Iberdrola’s signing of the revised Code of Ethics in July of 2009,” Mrs. Hamilton wrote.

The letter says Ms. Dunham is Mr. Langtry’s sister.

“In this case, Ms. Dunham, sister of Hammond Town Councilman James Langtry, signed a wind lease agreement and was being financially compensated for almost one-and-a-half years prior to it being recorded,” the letter continues.

CROH says that under the attorney general’s Code of Ethics, Iberdrola Renewables “was required to publicly publish a list of town officials who either stood to benefit themselves or had family members who would benefit from the Stone Church Wind Project.”

“That notification was published in the Ogdensburg Journal on October 23, 2009 and did not list Councilman Langtry. In addition, Councilman Langtry did not recuse himself during any discussion of wind related items at any Hammond Town Board meeting in 2009 or 2010 during which time a wind law ordinance was passed.

“Without Councilman Langtry’s vote there would have been no quorum due to the conflicts of wind leaseholders Councilmen (James) Pitcher and (Russell) Stewart and therefore no possibility of passing the wind ordinance,” the letter reads.

Mrs. Hamilton said the attorney general’s office is currently investigating officials in the town of Cape Vincent in Jefferson County.

“A similar situation exists (in Cape Vincent) and when it began the town attorney encouraged all town officials having a potential conflict of interest relating to wind development to ask the Jefferson County Ethics Board for an opinion on the matter. In the case of the board member with a brother who was a leaseholder and stood to gain financially, the July 27, 2006 opinion rendered by the Ethics Board stated, ‘Notwithstanding whether General Municipal Law 809 is technically applicable to the matter under review, the councilman’s participation in the discussion and voting on such regulations would at least create an appearance of impropriety because of his ongoing financial relationship with the wind developer,'” the letter reads.

The Ethics Board, CROH says, recommended the councilman recuse himself.

“Obviously that did not happen and Cape Vincent presently finds itself embroiled in a situation where the attorney general’s office is now conducting a full investigation into conflict of interest issues regarding family relationships and questionable behaviors of previous town officials and the wind development companies,” the letter said.

Mrs. Hamilton says Hammond taxpayers and voters deserve transparency in government.

“Based on this newly exposed information,” the letter reads, “and given the wide-ranging ramifications of inaction on the part of Iberdrola Renewables and Councilman Langtry to disclose the possible conflict, the perception it creates violates the spirit and intent of the General Municipal Law Article 18 provisions, is inconsistent with public policy, and suggests self-interest, partiality and economic impropriety.”

CROH has called on the town board to take the following actions:

* Instruct the town attorney to request an opinion from the St. Lawrence County Board of Ethics regarding Councilman Langtry’s potential conflict of interest during his involvement in wind related discussions throughout 2009 and 2010 due to the sibling relationship between leaseholder Susan Dunham and himself.

* Instruct the town attorney to contact the Deputy Attorney General’s Office in Syracuse to inquire about a ruling on the sibling relationship as well as the action of Iberdrola Renewables with regard to the delay in the disclosure of the recently recorded wind leases and failure to divulge the Langtry conflict.

“Ignorance on the part of the wind developer or Mr. Langtry is not acceptable in this case,” Mrs. Hamilton wrote. “The taxpayers and voters of the Town of Hammond deserve better.”