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Rival questions Pompeo’s ties to wind firm

A wind turbine firm in Hutchinson that did not succeed as envisioned is now in the spotlight in a congressional race.

Mike Pompeo, Republican running for the 4th District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, was an investor and previous member of the Sunflower Wind LLC board of directors. He remains a shareholder.

Sunflower Wind benefited from government help, but is behind on its property taxes. As of Tuesday, Sunflower Wind owed $115,189 in back taxes to Reno County.

Congressional candidate State Rep. Raj Goyle, D-Wichita, criticized Pompeo for his opposition to federal incentives for businesses while having ties to companies that have received help, also including Thayer Aerospace and a plating company it owns, and Sentry.

“Despite his gobbling up of these subsidies, he opposes them,” Goyle said Tuesday.

Goyle said Pompeo “comes from a very long line of hypocritical CEOs who love to own the positive pieces and shift responsibility for the negative pieces.”

Jill Strnad, at Sunflower Wind, now operating in South Hutchinson, referred questions about Pompeo and Sunflower Wind to the campaign.

A press release from Pompeo’s campaign called “Goyle’s assertion that Pompeo is responsible for past due property taxes” owed by Sunflower Wind “bizarre.” The release also said Pompeo was “one of numerous minority investors” who “had no leadership role in the company.”

When Sunflower Wind announced its plans for a Hutchinson plant about three years ago, it had four directors, including Pompeo. The News asked Pompeo’s communications director Josh Wells if the candidate had ever served on the board, and Wells responded in an e-mail: “Mike was at one time, but is no longer on the board. He was one of several minority investors.”

Pompeo is no longer on Sunflower Wind’s board.

Past local governmental efforts to keep Eaton Corp. jobs in Hutchinson included providing $1.5 million to improve the plant. Ultimately, the city and county agree to a strategy to spend that money to acquire and renovate space on the east side within the Eaton building for Sunflower Wind. City leaders recently approved a plan by Sunflower Wind to convert that space into temporary grain storage.