An advocacy group critical of a proposed wind farm across southwestern sections of Somerset County has released names of five county officials it claims have family or business ties to property owners leasing acres for wind turbines.
Somerset County Commissioners Rex Simpkins and Jerry Boston are at the top of a chart titled “Relationships Based on Public Records” that links them through immediate family to land owners listed as having lease agreements with the wind energy firm Pioneer Green.
But Simpkins said the group should look at his and Boston’s voting records.
“There’s no credibility to their accusations,” he said. “I voted against the windmills.”
Several months ago, Simpkins and County Commissioner Charles Fisher both voted to kill the project, while Boston abstained because his daughter Ashley is married to leaseholder Douglas Reynolds. Commissioners Randy Laird and Craig Mathies voted against the motion.
Since the motion ended in a 2-2 tie vote, the wind developers have proceeded with their plans.
“Certainly voting no to kill the project would redeem me,” Simpkins said.
This week, Harvey Kagan, a member of Safe For Somerset, presented a poster-sized map showing an estimated 40 properties around Westover and Marion Station which shows certified public accountant Scott Tawes with a lease agreement with other leaseholders on separate small parcels south of Fairmount Road in Westover.
Tawes’ daughter, Rochelle, is married to Kirk Simpkins, who is Rex Simpkins’ brother.
Coulborne Swift is listed with several large parcels north of Fairmount Road. Both Tawes and Swift are listed as clients of Kirk Simpkins, who has a private law practice.
Kirk Simpkins also is the attorney for Somerset County.
The group released the chart and glossy color map at a news conference Wednesday. The group is calling for an ethics commission ruling on relationships between officials and property owners that stand to gain financially through turbine lease agreements with Pioneer Green.
According to Kagan, the county solicitor also represents a partnership involving Tawes and Tim Carson, whose wife, Pat, is a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. Members are appointed by the County Commissioners.
The sister of Planning and Zoning Commission member Kevin Anderson is Candice Anderson Ring, the wife of Roy J. Ring who’s listed as a leaseholder.
Safe For Somerset wants the county to delay a decision on the wind provision until the ethics issue is resolved. The group said Wednesday that the delay also would allow more time to study potential effects on health and safety, property values and the environment. Approval of the provision would establish guidelines for industrial-scale turbines and open the gate for developers like Pioneer Green.
Pioneer Green has proposed 25 or more turbines between Marion Station and Westover.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding