May 24, 2018

Lawyer asks to represent both sides

By Phyllis Zorn | Marion County Record | May 23, 2018 |

A lawyer hired by the county commission to represent the county’s interests in a wind farm project sent an email to county commissioners asking if he could also represent potential investors in the Diamond Vista wind farm project.

Pat Hughes, with Adams Jones Law Firm in Wichita, was hired to make sure the county doesn’t end up with out-of-pocket expenses years down the road when the turbines are shut off, taken down, and hauled away.

His email was sent directly to commissioner Dianne Novak.

Hughes wrote that he would review and comment whether the project has proper and valid leases for all of the property used, and that leases comply with state and local requirements and have proper zoning approval.

Hughes wrote that potential investors want to learn about the status and risks of the project, and would not be trying to advocate on behalf of the project. He believes he could represent both without limiting his representation of either party.

“Our role for the potential investors would not be to make the project work, but to provide information from which they can assess whether to invest in the project,” Hughes wrote.

“I’m a little queasy on it myself, but I did say I would bring it before the commission and ask what they want to do,” Novak said.

County counselor Brad Jantz said although there can be advantages to having a single lawyer represent both parties, there can be disadvantages as well.

If a conflict arises over what constitutes full compliance with the agreement between the county and wind farm developers, that scenario could be a problem with the same lawyer representing both, Jantz said.

Jantz also said he isn’t clear on what Hughes meant with some of his statements in the email.

“I sure wouldn’t be inclined to say yes to this right now,” Jantz said. “I can just see so many ways that this can become adversarial.”

“I’d be a little apprehensive at this point without some clarification,” commissioner Kent Becker said.

Although no vote was taken on Hughes’ request, Jantz said he would contact Hughes for more information.

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