NEWARK – Someone pretending to be one of the Seneca Mountain Wind developers sent a note on fake SMW letterhead and $46 in cash to a legal fund set up for the town to defend itself against the company’s hoped-for wind project.
Seneca Mountain Wind, LLC, is seeking a Certificate of Public Good to install four meteorological towers, precursors for a wind development, in Newark and two other communities, which could be the first step for a 35-turbine industrial wind project.
The developer named on the fake letterhead is John Soininen, one of three principals at Portsmouth, N.H.-based Eoliancaledonian record Renewable Energy, which is partnering with Nordex, USA, a Chicago-based turbine manufacturer. Soininen said Wednesday he first learned of the alleged donation from The Caledonian-Record in recent days.
Soininen had received a thank you note from the town for the donation but first thought it was for a few tickets SMW had donated last month for a raffle to benefit the Newark Street School. SMW had been a sponsor of a Sno Cross event at Burke Mountain and had a few spare tickets.
Soininen said when he learned the note was for the donation to the non-profit fund, which he has questioned the legality of, he called the Newark Town Clerk’s office. Soininen said both Seneca and his name were misspelled in the note and his company never deals in cash.
“So obviously it wasn’t from me and somebody fraudulently donated using my name, which is concerning for many reasons,” he said. “It’s very weird, it’s concerning, it’s frustrating, it’s a whole lot of things. … Somebody can’t go around representing that they are us in any way, shape or form. It’s illegal and it’s unacceptable in every form. We’ve notified our lawyers and we’ve asked them to dig into it.”
He said that realistically, unless someone comes forward, it is unlikely they will be able to prove who it was.
“It’s clearly confrontational and adversarial.”
In recent days, a Newark official, when asked about donors to the new legal fund and how it was going, mentioned the small donation from the developer themselves.
Select Board Chairman Michael Channon previously said of the $46 donation, “I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a slap in the face … we sent them a thank you letter.”
That type of reaction was just what Soininen was concerned people would have when they were mistakenly led to believe that they made the donation, he said.
Channon could not be reached on Wednesday for a comment on the news that the donation was actually sent in from someone posing to be the developer.
Channon said the fund had raised, at his last update from the town clerk and treasurer, about $11,000. The newspaper has requested a copy of the donors and that request will go to the select board, the town clerk’s office said Wednesday.
At a recent meeting of the select board, Soininen asked about the legal fund. He was told to request information on the legal fund’s donors in writing, and Channon said so far, that request had not yet come in from the developers.
The town office confirmed that Seneca Mountain Wind says they did not make the small cash donation.
“There was a $46 donation submitted to the town and we are giving that to our selectmen to look into,” said Holden, the assistant town clerk, when asked about the donation letter and the concern expressed on Wednesday by Soininen. “He did call and let the town know that they did not make a donation and that they would like it known that it was not from them,” she said.
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