The CEO of the company proposing to build the state’s first wind farm west of Springdale embezzled about $785,000 in Oklahoma a decade ago and was sentenced to probation in two other cases, federal and state court records in Oklahoma and Arkansas show.
Jody Davis, 40, has led Dragonfly Industries International in its bid this year to build what it says would be an 80-megawatt, multimillion-dollar wind farm on 300 acres that were recently annexed into the small town of Elm Springs. The proposal is winding through the Elm Springs approval process.
A proposal to rezone the land for industrial development was put on hold this month by the City Council to allow more discussion.
Years before taking Dragonfly’s helm, Davis pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering while he worked as an account executive for Newsong Assembly, Windsong Marketing and Buyers Assistance, organizations in northeast Oklahoma that helped people buy homes.
“I made some mistakes in my past,” Davis wrote in an emailed statement Thursday. “I paid a high price for these mistakes, including a debt to society. The experience transformed me. Since that time, I have tried to live my life as an example, so others might understand how they can be transformed.”
Davis declined to be interviewed by phone or in person and didn’t provide answers to emailed questions Thursday afternoon.
In 2004 and 2005, Davis diverted payments intended for the groups, and wired money from the groups’ bank accounts into his own, according to his 2009 plea agreement in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. He bought vehicles, real estate, boats, tractors, jewelry and other goods with the money, according to Davis’ indictment.
Davis was imprisoned for 17 months and was ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution. He was released on probation from July 2011 to July 2014, according to a transfer of jurisdiction that moved Davis’ case from the Oklahoma court to the Eastern District of Arkansas.
The case was at least the third time Davis had been sentenced to probation. In 1999, he was sentenced in Washington County Circuit Court to 72 months of probation for violating the Arkansas hot check law by writing himself a $10,000 check that he couldn’t cover – a felony – according to the court’s judgment and disposition order.
In 2007, a judge in the 20th Judicial District in north-central Arkansas sentenced Davis to 60 months of probation for possession of a counterfeit controlled substance, according to online court records.
Davis was being held in the Faulkner County jail in connection with violating probation when the federal embezzlement case began, according to court documents and his arrest report.
Craig Cook, who is listed as chief operating officer on Dragonfly’s website, emailed a statement saying the company’s board of directors stood by Davis. Cook didn’t respond to an emailed request for further comment.
“As a company, we believe that there are such things as second chances when a person does not just modify their behavior but one goes through complete heart change,” the statement said. “Mr. Jody Davis has our full support and we eagerly look forward to the future in all our business endeavors.”
Davis and other Dragonfly executives have assured town officials that their unique wind turbine design can produce electricity more quietly and safely than the standard three-bladed model. Many neighbors have voiced skepticism and overall opposition to the project throughout the process, saying Dragonfly’s promises are overblown.
Jonathon Hamby, who lives near the proposed site and has helped rally the opposition, said the new information fits a pattern throughout the proposal’s approval process. The developers “came out of nowhere” with a wind power project for Arkansas, which has much less wind than states to the west, he said Thursday. They’ve also shown no physical prototype of their turbine design.
“It validates our feelings from all along based on all the facts that we’ve dealt with,” Hamby said.
“I hope he [Davis] has turned a new page in his life, personally,” Hamby added. “Of course it seems possible. On the flip side, if it looks like a skunk and smells like a skunk, it’s probably a skunk.”
Mayor Harold Douthit has voiced support for the project since Dragonfly representatives first approached city officials a year ago, and said Thursday that he still supports it. Someone’s past has no bearing on the approval process, he said.
“We have been since day one taking steps that any city must undergo to determine if the project is good for Elm Springs,” Douthit said, pointing to multiple public meetings with the council and the Planning Commission, and a town hall meeting on the project earlier this year. “We cannot consider the fact that someone has a past. That’s not something we can ask. All we can do is look at the merits of the proposal on the table, and we do it one step at a time.”
Douthit added of Davis: “It sounds to me like he paid his debt to society.”
Alderman Kevin Thornton of Ward 1, who has resisted taking a firm stance on the project, agreed that the city must move as it has, one step at a time.
“The City Council needs to stay focused on our job right now, which is to see if rezoning is appropriate,” he said.
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