A judge has allowed two Goodhue County officials to forgo depositions in a case regarding the county’s wind turbine ordinance.
AWA Goodhue’s lawyers called Commissioners Dan Rechtzigel and Richard Samuelson to give depositions in the case. The subpoenas were issued Feb. 14 and depositions were scheduled for Tuesday.
Attorney Jay Squires, representing the county, took issue with the short notice and also argued the subpoenas would seek information irrelevant to the case and that state law protects local lawmakers from giving depositions meant to determine their decision-making process.
While the rationale was weakened by the fact that the county is a party to the case, Administrative Law Judge Kathleen Sheehy wrote in her protective order that Goodhue Wind “aimed its discovery efforts at the individual county commissioners, as opposed to the county itself, and it seeks the information in an expensive and burdensome format,” she said.
Goodhue Wind attorneys wrote in a response Monday, prior to the judge’s protective order, that they asked for the depositions because the county had decided not to call any of the commissioners as witnesses in the case.
The county voluntarily entered the case, Goodhue Wind attorney Todd Guerrero wrote, and officials shouldn’t be able to pick which parts to be involved with or not.
Goodhue Wind’s attorneys were not trying to find out why the commissioners decided to vote for or against the ordinance, they wrote, only what information they used to make their decision.
However, Sheehy wrote that the views of two individual commissioners and the information they used to make their decision on the ordinance are not relevant to the case.
Guerrero had stated in the response he understood the time constraints on the commissioners, and he offered to set a time limit for the depositions and to take them in Red Wing or another location more convenient for commissioners than Minneapolis, where they were originally scheduled.
Rechtzigel told the R-E he received notice of his deposition via e-mail from the county last week. He said it seemed like little notice, especially given the Monday Presidents Day holiday, and that he would prefer not to give up time on such short notice given his job as a teacher.
Guerrero had argued “the scales of justice easily fall on the side of allowing the depositions to go forward,” because the county’s ordinance has jeopardized the 78-megawatt project and $7 million Goodhue Wind has already spent, and the ordinance could have an impact on future wind farm developments.
Sheehy said Goodhue Wind could still seek the information it wanted if it could find “other, less burdensome” methods.
The goal of the case is to determine whether the Goodhue County ordinance is on par with other state laws and if it should be applied to Goodhue Wind’s project. Hearings are currently scheduled for March 15-17 at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
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