Prattsburgh, NY – Details of a proposed court order by Ecogen settling its wind farm dispute in the town of Prattsburgh will likely by discussed again publicly after town officials meet with their attorney.
With that legal consultation slated for Tuesday, the town board’s first meeting on Ecogen’s proposal gave a general outline of the settlement – and aired the differences between board members and town residents.
Councilman Chuck Shick said he received the wind developer’s proposal, as the town board liaison on the wind issue, on Jan. 30. But the town’s attorney for the legal dispute, was on vacation that week, so Shick said he requested the special meeting for the following Monday, hoping there would be more details by then.
At first glance, the Ecogen proposal appears to simply put the clock back to Dec. 31, 2009, before the issue was brought before the state Supreme Court.
According to town attorney Ed Brockman, state Supreme Court Justice John Ark’s February 2011 decision did not have any legal weight until he signed an order carrying out the rulings.
That order has been supplied to Ark by Ecogen, and denies the points raised by the town in its legal dispute, Brockman said. Ecogen also looks to change the road use agreement it first proposed and signed by the town board last year in March, according to Brockman.
An order reportedly offered to Ark by the town last spring has not been signed, Brockman said.
“All I know is this is not what I remember of the decision,” Shick said. “This is not what I thought he ruled last year. Not at all.”
Brockman recommended board members get copies of Ark’s decision and compare them to Ecogen’s proposed order.
Shick also was criticized for waiting to give board members copies of the order until Monday evening, which gave them little time to review the document. When he said he was uncomfortable forwarding the e-mail he received, Councilman Greg Booth said the document could have been printed out and board members could have picked them up at the town hall.
Yet Booth’s role also remains a question mark for some board members.
Both Shick and Councilwoman Angela Einwachter said they were not comfortable because of Ecogen’s recent disclosure Booth sold the firm property in 2005, and has managed Ecogen’s property.
According to the disclosure, Booth received “less than” $250,000 for the property and his services between January 2005 and October 2011.
Booth said it is no secret he supports wind power, adding he quit working for Ecogen in October because he knew he might be elected to the town board.
However, as the manager of the properties, he would only benefit financially as long as the project remains up in the air, Booth said.
The questioned of divided loyalties on the wind issue has plagued the Prattsburgh board in the past.
While Booth’s past role with Ecogen might lead to charges of conflict of interest if he votes for anything benefiting his former employer, his role on a board involved in a legal dispute with Ecogen also may alarm some.
Several years ago, Shick and former Councilman Steve Kula complained they were being left out of important plans because they questioned the Ecogen project. Two years ago, a vocal Ecogen supporter, former Councilwoman Stacey Bottoni said she was in direct contact with the wind developer because she was left out of the board’s discussions on the lawsuit.
In some cases, a board member’s action undermining the action of the board as a whole could be considered under the “faithless servant doctrine,” according to Steuben County Alan Reed.
Reed said he has no knowledge of issues in Prattsburgh and could not give an opinion. But county employees or elected officials who appear to have acted against the county’s interest could be held accountable as “faithless servants,” he said.
“’Faithless servant’ may hold true, and I stress ‘may’ hold true,” Reed said.
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