BARNSTABLE – A special county panel recommends that ties between two regional energy agencies be severed and that the finances of one of the agencies be examined by an independent auditor and the state inspector general’s office.
In a 17-page report scheduled for formal release next week but obtained by the Times, the county’s Assembly of Delegates Special Subcommittee on Cape Light Compact and Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative made seven basic recommendations.
The report was approved by a vote of the subcommittee at its last meeting on Wednesday.
The Compact was created in 1997 to buy energy in bulk for residents of the Cape and the Vineyard, as well as to provide energy-efficiency programs.
The cooperative was formed in 2007 to pursue renewable energy projects for its members, which include 16 local towns, the compact and Barnstable and Dukes counties. It has received more than $2 million from the Compact to keep it afloat.
The cooperative is moving forward with a slew of solar energy projects across the Cape and Vineyard after struggling to develop wind energy projects in several towns.
The highlights of the report include a recommendation that the inspector general review the group’s findings and that the Compact undergo a forensic audit by an outside auditor.
The five-member subcommittee also recommended that the Compact and the cooperative be separately controlled and that each have a separate chief executive officer and separate legal counsel. Ratepayer funds collected by the Compact should not be used to support the cooperative and members of the boards of both groups should not overlap, according to the recommendations.
“We found that there was just so many people who were involved in both organizations,” said Ron Bergstrom, speaker of the Assembly of Delegates and chairman of the subcommittee. “Even though (the cooperative) was kind of a spinoff of (the Compact) it is really a separate organization. We thought that that was an issue.”
Once the committee reports its recommendations back to the full assembly, its job is over, Bergstrom said, adding that the full assembly could decide to take action or not.
The subcommittee did not base its work on opposition to wind energy, which first sparked objections by members of the public to the relationship between the Compact and cooperative, he said.
Bergstrom said he hopes the two organizations issue a “substantive” response.
Cooperative president Charles McLaughlin said he had not seen the report but doesn’t like what he has heard so far.
“(The cooperative) is not subject to county oversight, and as I understand some of the wording of this, they’re attempting to mandate actions of (the cooperative) and we reject that outright,” he said.
Cooperative officials were willing to sit down and go over any questions before the report was issued but that didn’t happen, McLaughlin said
“This confirmed my worst fears, that this was a mob with preconceived notions of what they wanted accomplished and they’ve done it,” he said.
The inspector general’s office has no jurisdiction over the concerns raised in the report, McLaughlin said.
“We will respond more substantively as time goes along,” he said.
Barnstable County Assistant Administrator Maggie Downey, who is also the administrator for the Compact and the clerk for the cooperative, said keeping membership of the two organizations separate may not be a bad idea, but it is up to the members and organizations.
Some of the other recommendations are already being addressed, including a vote of the Compact to eventually stop funding the operations of the cooperative, she said.
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