HERTFORD – Perquimans County Commissioner Matt Peeler should be recused from voting on a conditional use permit for the Apex Clean Energy project because he had his mind made up to oppose the project from the start, a lawyer for Apex says.
Based on a review of county emails, Peeler cannot make an impartial decision on Apex’s request for the permit, according to Henry Campen, the lead attorney for Apex. Campen wants Peeler recused from voting on the permit.
The Perquimans Board of Commissioners is supposed to decide today how it will respond to Campen’s request.
Peeler has a long history of questioning the benefits of wind power as well as the impact of solar projects.
“I will admit now and in the future I will oppose these things on their health and welfare impacts,” he said in one email. “I applaud any action that puts a halt or greatly reduces the ability of these wind power plants in our state.”
Peeler said Tuesday he couldn’t comment on Campen’s request.
When the first hearing on Apex’s permit request started last month, each commissioner was asked if they could rule fairly on the application. Board Chairman Janice Cole asked each commissioner if they had had any ex parte communications with any parties in the case.
Each commissioner, including Peeler, answered “no.”
Then Cole read Section 1606 (B) of state law dealing with quasi-judicial hearings. It reads: “Impermissible violations of due process include, but are not limited to, a member having a fixed opinion prior to hearing the matter that is not susceptible to change; undisclosed ex parte commission; a close familial, business or other associational relationship with an affected person or a financial interest in the outcome of the matter.”
Cole then asked if there was any reason any commissioner could not participate in the quasi-judicial hearing.
All six commissioners, including Peeler, said “no.”
In his letter to the county, however, Campen said Peeler’s emails show he has had extensive conversations regarding the wind turbine project, and that his opposition to it was apparent long before the conditional use permit hearing and continued after Apex filed its application for the permit.
Campen said Peeler also provided tactical and strategic advice to opponents of the project.
“The applicant is entitled to an impartial tribunal, whether it consists of one person or 20, and since there is no way to quantitatively measure the influence of Commissioner Peeler on other commissioners, due process requires that Commissioner Peeler be recused,” Campen’s letter to the county reads.
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