An agreement between a wind developer and the county expected to be considered at Wednesday’s meeting of the Henry County Commissioners was not presented as expected.
Apex representative Brenna Gunderson said the company recently learned about a text exchange between a member of the Flat Rock Wind team and a community member, which may have left the impression that if the community member helped get support from local officials, that Apex would reward that individual with a job at Apex.
At issue is a series of text messages between an Apex employee and a local resident, parts of which were posted on Facebook. In the texts, the Apex employee asks the local resident to “work on Kim (Cronk) for me.” The resident then asks, “Might there be a job for me with Apex/Flat Rock in the future?” The Apex employee responded, “Deliver Kim and we will talk!” Approximately a week later, the Apex employee sent another text indicating his reference to a possible job with the company was a joke.
“Flat Rock Wind and its affiliated entities uphold the highest ethical standards and our employee code of conduct prohibits any employee to act in violation of any such standards. Apex and is taking this matter very seriously and initiated a thorough internal investigation into the matter immediately upon being informed of the incident. While we cannot comment specifically on the actions at issue, Apex has not approved and does not support conferring, offering or agreeing to confer on any person a benefit intended to influence approvals or support for the project,” Gunderson said.
“Though we had intended to bring our Road Use Agreement before (the county commissioners) tonight, we do not believe that it is appropriate to bring an agreement before the county until we have completed our investigation. For this reason, we support the county’s decision to postpone discussion on the Road Use Agreement until we finalize this matter,” she continued.
The Road Use Agreement ensures public roads used for construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning are restored to equal or better condition. This is the third and final agreement needed for Flat Rock Wind to move forward in Henry County. The other two agreements, which specify the economic arrangement between the developer and the county and how the proposed turbines will be removed at some point in the future have both already been accepted by both the county and Apex.
Cronk shared the texts with the Henry County Sheriff’s Department as well as the Henry County Prosecutor’s office. Cronk said the unnamed Apex employee also called his home and left a voicemail message.
“I did not return the call. The recording was turned over to the sheriff’s department and that’s where it stands at this point,” Cronk said.
Gunderson said Wednesday the Apex employee involved has been suspended and that pending the completion of the investigation, the company intended to take “swift action,” though she did not elaborate on what that action might be.
Henry County Sheriff Ric McCorkle said at this time the texts in question do not appear to be a criminal matter, but that it is his understanding it constitutes an ethics violation on the part of the Apex employee.
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