July 16, 2019

In conflict-of-interest case, judge rules 2 Cherry County Board members can’t vote on wind project

By Reece Ristau | BH News Service | www.nptelegraph.com

A judge on Monday temporarily blocked two Cherry County Board members from voting on a planned wind energy project in the Sandhills, siding with opponents who argued those board members have a financial stake in the project’s outcome.

District Judge Mark Kozisek’s order temporarily prohibits board members Tanya Storer and Martin DeNaeyer from “hearing, discussing, considering, influencing or voting” on a conditional use permit for a 19-turbine wind farm planned west of Kilgore.

Preserve the Sandhills, the advocacy group that brought the lawsuit, filed the complaint on grounds that Storer and DeNaeyer have family members who would financially benefit from the project.

A public hearing and vote on the project was scheduled for Tuesday, but Monday’s injunction means the county board will lack the two-member majority required for the vote to occur.

It’s unclear what happens next. The issue will eventually return to the courts, but no hearing had been scheduled as of Monday evening. Jason Bruno, the Omaha attorney representing Preserve the Sandhills, said he’s not sure of the timeline.

Reached by phone, DeNaeyer and Storer declined to comment.

Bruno said the hearing lasted a little more than an hour, during which the judge’s line of questioning revolved around the legal definition of “immediate family” and what constitutes a conflict of interest.

State law defines immediate family as a child residing in the household; a spouse; or an individual claimed as a dependent for federal income tax purposes.

The hearing, which Bruno said was packed with attendees, was held in Holt County.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2019/07/16/in-conflict-of-interest-case-judge-rules-2-cherry-county-board-members-cant-vote-on-wind-project/