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Energy report sparks ill will  

Much of the criticism of the two groups comes from opponents of Cape wind-energy projects who argue that revenue collected by the Compact should not be used to pay for renewable energy projects developed by the cooperative. In the 17-page report released last month, the committee recommended the inspector general review the group's findings and that the Compact undergo a forensic audit by an outside auditor. While the 15-member assembly has no independent authority to act on the report's recommendations, it could pass them on to county commissioners, the state attorney general or the state inspector general.

Credit:  By Patrick Cassidy, Cape Cod Times | www.capecodonline.com 5 June 2012 ~~

BARNSTABLE – Officials with two regional energy agencies are calling on Barnstable County officials to reject a report criticizing how the organizations are governed.

In separate responses Friday, the heads of both the Cape Light Compact and the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative blasted the findings of the Assembly of Delegates special committee and called them inaccurate and inflammatory.

“The report is utterly lacking in evidentiary support and its conclusions reflect a complete lack of understanding of applicable law,” cooperative president Charles McLaughlin wrote in a cover letter with his response. “Worse, its unfounded accusations and conclusions are incendiary and do great harm to the reputations and good work of staff and countless unpaid volunteers.”

County Commissioner William Doherty, who serves as the Compact’s chairman, used similar language.

“I strongly recommend that the Assembly of Delegates reject the report as currently written and work closely with county legal counsel to reproduce a document that is fact-based and free of specious allegations and incendiary comments,” Doherty wrote.

The five-member special committee was formed by the assembly last year after complaints from the public about the flow of millions of dollars from the Compact to the cooperative and criticism about the overlapping governance of the two organizations.

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.

Much of the criticism of the two groups comes from opponents of Cape wind-energy projects who argue that revenue collected by the Compact should not be used to pay for renewable energy projects developed by the cooperative.

In the 17-page report released last month, the committee recommended the inspector general review the group’s findings and that the Compact undergo a forensic audit by an outside auditor.

While the 15-member assembly has no independent authority to act on the report’s recommendations, it could pass them on to county commissioners, the state attorney general or the state inspector general.

Members of the special committee said there is no basis for the two organizations to request that the assembly reject the report.

The special committee has done what the assembly asked, said Ronald Bergstrom, special committee chairman and speaker of the assembly. The assembly doesn’t have the authority to accept or reject the report, he said.

The report is on the assembly’s agenda for Wednesday, Bergstrom said, adding that he will allow ample time for public comment.

In his response, Doherty took umbrage with the use of the term “forensic audit,” arguing that such wording implies the potential for criminal charges.

“This gross misuse of a defined accounting term has done irreparable harm to the reputations of (Compact) board members and (Compact) staff,” Doherty wrote.

The term was meant to set a high standard of review and not to imply wrongdoing, special committee member Leo Cakounes said.

Bergstrom agreed, saying the term was used primarily because of the “amorphous claims of audits” by the Compact and cooperative.

Doherty also took issue with what he said was a contention by the special committee that the Compact has no budget.

“The (Compact) has two budgets: an energy efficiency budget, and an operating budget, and these budgets are maintained and tracked in separate funds,” he wrote.

The state Department of Public Utilities is responsible for reviewing a budget included in the Compact’s annual energy efficiency plan and the operating budget is reviewed and approved by the county commissioners and assembly, Doherty wrote.

“For the special committee to say that the (Compact) has no operating budget is simply mind-boggling!” he wrote.

“We didn’t say that,” assembly special committee member Deborah McCutcheon said.

The special committee argued that the Compact’s entire budget, including the millions covered by energy efficiency plans, was not provided and should be readily available in one place for easy review, she said. In addition, she said, there is little documentation for votes on a budget by the Compact’s board members.

While Doherty pointed to minutes provided to the special committee, only one set of the minutes provided to the special committee includes a vote on a full operating budget.

Doherty and McLaughlin also outlined instances where they say the special committee failed to accurately compare revenue figures and didn’t understand relevant public records, open meeting or conflict of interest laws.

Source:  By Patrick Cassidy, Cape Cod Times | www.capecodonline.com 5 June 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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