What one group of entrepreneurs hoped would become Arkansas’ first energy-generating wind farm alongside Elm Springs west of Springdale has been swept into a whirlwind of controversy and uncertainty.
That’s because the two men who’ve been touting the Dragonfly Industries International project, Jody Davis and Dan Fell, today find their experiences with the criminal justice system and related financial dealings under public scrutiny.
And in the finest tradition of his craft, reporter Dan Holtmeyer is doing an admirable job of scrutinizing.
Turns out these men who have been whipping up support for the 80-megawatt, multimillion-dollar 300-acre wind farm have individual less than savory histories in Arkansas and Oklahoma courtrooms.
For instance, Dragonfly’s CEO, Jody Davis, beginning in 2009 spent 17 months in prison, followed by probation that ended in 2014, after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money-laundering connected with embezzling some $785,000 from three Oklahoma organizations. Holtmeyer reported Davis was ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution.
In 2007, Davis was sentenced by an Arkansas circuit judge to 60 months probation for possession of a counterfeit controlled substance. Records show he was in the Faulkner County jail for violating probation when the embezzlement case began. In 1999, Davis was sentenced to 72 months’ probation on an Arkansas felony hot check charge when he failed to cover a $10,000 check he’d written to himself.
Now 40, Davis contends he’s a changed man who’s trying to earn an honest living while helping inspire others to get their lives on the right path. He told the reporter in an email: “I paid a high price for these mistakes, including a debt to society. The experience transformed me.”
Fell, 47, has danced his own waltzes with the criminal justice system. His sustained legal troubles and silence in the face of them darned near blew me away (sorry). Holtmeyer writes that Fell’s personal data tie him to court cases in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
In 2012 a Tulsa County district judge ruled he owed some $52,000 after his company failed to pay a $55,000 contract. The judgment was by default, since records indicate Fell didn’t appear to defend himself. In a similar 2008 case, that court issued several bench warrants for Fell’s arrest after he failed to appear. An attempt by Fell and his wife to declare bankruptcy was rejected “because of various misrepresentations of the defendants,” according to a contempt citation. The Fells also were ordered to pay more than $185,000 in a foreclosure lawsuit in Adair County, Okla. In Washington County in 2009, Fell was ordered to pay about $29,000 to First State Bank of Northwest Arkansas after failing to respond to the bank’s complaint that he wasn’t paying on a loan.
The Fells’ Tontitown home entered foreclosure in 2003 after a Washington County circuit judge found they owed more than $300,000 to Arkansas National Bank. That same year Fell faced a hot-check charge, when court documents show he knowingly wrote a $2,463 check he couldn’t afford. Fell pleaded guilty in 2004 and received 12 months’ probation with “minimal supervision,” Holtmeyer wrote.
Fell was among the first to champion this wind farm to the Elm Springs council and planning commission last December. Yet he isn’t listed as a board member on Dragonfly’s website. Davis said in August that Fell represented Elite Energy, which owns the proposed wind-farm site. His exact role with Dragonfly remains unclear to me and others.
And try to follow this whirlygiggin’ trail. Public records list Fell’s home address in Springdale as registered to a business called Arkansas Wind Power. That’s a Texas-based company which has acted as a counterpart to Dragonfly, writes Holtmeyer. And our own vigilant Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) issued a stormwater permit to Arkansas Wind Power (addressed to Davis) for developing 25 acres at the proposed Elm Springs site.
Fell and Davis weren’t talking. Craig Cook, Dragonfly’s chief operating officer, would only say in a prepared message that the company’s board supports Davis.
Davis did send an email saying Dragonfly wouldn’t answer questions about its personnel until it receives questions about the project that residents have been asked to send to an email address set up by the city, firstname.lastname@example.org. Those that are planning-related will be forwarded to Dragonfly. The city council last month tabled action on rezoning the property to accommodate Dragonfly.
Mayor Harold Douthit says the past has no bearing on Dragonfly’s business proposal. Oh, really? Opponents expressed surprise (but not shock) at learning the criminal backgrounds of both men. And so the blades in this little drama continue to twirl.
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