A second person involved in the bid to build Arkansas’ first wind farm west of Springdale has a history of legal troubles involving money, according to Arkansas and Oklahoma court records and other documents.
Cody Fell, 47, who has been a spokesman for Dragonfly Industries International, has owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreclosure cases in Washington County and in Oklahoma, court records show. He also pleaded guilty in 2004 to a misdemeanor violation of the Arkansas Hot Check Law.
Jody Davis, Dragonfly’s chief executive officer, had previously acknowledged spending time in prison.
Dragonfly for the past year has pushed to build a multimillion-dollar wind power complex on the west side of Elm Springs. The project has drawn opposition from several neighbors concerned about the project’s feasibility and its effect on them and their property values. The Elm Springs City Council this month tabled the industrial rezoning of the 300-acre site near Brush Creek Road.
Fell was among the first people who visited the council and Planning Commission last December to introduce the project, according to minutes from those panels’ meetings.
Fell isn’t listed as a board member on Dragonfly’s website, and his exact role with the company remains unclear. Davis said in August that Fell represented Elite Energy, the company that is listed in property records as the owner of the site for the proposed wind farm.
Voter and corporation registration records from the Arkansas secretary of state’s office show Fell’s home address in Springdale is registered to a company called Arkansas Wind Power, which has acted as Texas-based Dragonfly’s counterpart in Arkansas. The Department of Environmental Quality issued a stormwater permit to Arkansas Wind Power, addressed to Davis, for development of 25 acres of the site.
Fell didn’t return phone calls Thursday or Friday. Craig Cook, Dragonfly’s chief operating officer, also didn’t respond to email messages this week asking for comment about Fell and the project’s status.
Davis wrote in an email Friday that the company wouldn’t answer more questions about its personnel until it receives questions about the project that residents have been asked to send to a special city email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Elm Springs Planning Commission Chairman Matt Casey will sort through those questions and forward the planning-related ones to Dragonfly for answers, Elm Springs Mayor Harold Douthit said.
“I have zero info on Cody Fell,” Davis wrote Friday.
In 2009, Davis pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering after federal officials said he embezzled about $785,000 from three Oklahoma organizations. His prison sentence and probation ended in 2014, and he was ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution, according to federal court records.
Davis also pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Arkansas Hot Check Law in 1999 after his account couldn’t cover a $10,000 check.
Davis wrote in a statement Thursday that he was a changed man and he hoped his story could inspire “others who have been through trials in their life.”
“I made some mistakes in my past,” he wrote by email. “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.”
Fell’s middle name, date of birth, past addresses and phone number link him to court cases in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
In 2012, for example, a Tulsa County district judge ruled that Fell owed more than $52,000 after his company Eagle Management failed to pay a $55,000 contract. The judgment was by default, because records indicate that Fell never showed up to defend himself.
In a similar case against Fell in 2008, the same district court issued several bench warrants for Fell’s arrest after he failed to appear in court. An attempt by Fell and his wife, June, to declare bankruptcy was rejected “because of various misrepresentations of the defendants,” according to a citation for contempt. The amount of money being sought in that case wasn’t available in online records.
The Fells also were ordered to pay more than $185,000 in an Adair County, Okla., foreclosure lawsuit filed by the Theodore R. Murry Living Trust.
In a 2009 case in Washington County Circuit Court, Fell was ordered to pay almost $29,000 to First State Bank of Northwest Arkansas after he failed to respond to the bank’s complaint that he wasn’t making payments on a loan.
And the Fells’ home in Tontitown went into foreclosure in 2003 in Washington County Circuit Court after a judge found they owed more than $300,000 to Arkansas National Bank.
Cody Fell’s hot check case also was in 2003, when he knowingly wrote a $2,463 check he couldn’t afford, according to court documents. Fell pleaded guilty the next year and received 12 months’ probation with “minimal supervision,” according to the judgment and disposition order.
Jonathon Hamby, who lives next to the proposed wind farm site in Springdale and has rallied the opposition, said Friday that he was “in total shock” in response to the information about Fell.
“I had no idea the people we were dealing with had these criminal backgrounds, and now more than one of them,” Hamby said. “It sure makes it seem like this is not what they have said it is.”
Elite Energy bought the site from Chambers Bank in February for $2.3 million, according to county records. The developers gave the City Council a bill of assurance at its last meeting that said if the property is zoned industrial development, then potential construction would be limited to a wind farm for five years, and the property would revert to agricultural zoning if that time passes without development.
Hamby and other opponents this week turned in more than 200 signatures to force a public vote on the land’s annexation from the county in October. Those signatures need to be verified, and Hamby said a vote could come early next year.
Douthit, who has supported the project, repeated Friday that city officials must look at each step of the development in front of them, not an applicant’s past troubles.
“The rules are still the same,” the Elm Springs mayor said Friday. “We have to look at the elements of this project that apply to the city and the questions we can ask about it.”
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