Wind farm, county officials face lawsuit
Credit: By Megan Gray-Hatfield | Gainesville Register | www.gainesvilleregister.com ~~
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Over the past several months Wildcat Creek Wind Farm LLC has been under discussion within many area governmental entities. And now, it’s facing a lawsuit.
On Thursday, Aug. 15, a lawsuit was filed with the Cooke County District Clerk’s office against the wind farm, Cooke County, Cooke County Commissioners’ Court and Precinct 3 Commissioner John Klement.
“We are aware of the pending legal matter and are reviewing it internally,” said Liz McCrory, communications analyst with EDP Renewables in response to an inquiry about the suit Friday, Aug. 16.
Houston-based EDP Renewables is the company behind the proposed wind farm in southeastern Cooke County.
Part of the suit claims the April 8, 2019, vote by Cooke County commissioners to create a tax abatement reinvestment zone under Chapter 312 of the Texas Tax Code was illegal and in “violation of Chapter 176 of the Local Government Code, inter alia, because Wildcat had not at the time, and has not to date, satisfied the disclosure requirements for vendors and other persons required by Chapter 176.”
“In the same manner, as to the April 8, 2019, meeting, Klement had not then filed the appropriate ‘Local Government Officer Conflicts Disclosure Statement’ as required by Chapter 176,” court documents show. “Although, Klement’s participation in the April 8, 2019, meeting was illegal and contrary to both Chapter 171 and 176 of the Local Government Code, he attempted to justify his conflicted participation and voting based on an inaccurate statement of the law and his responsibilities.”
Klement took part in the vote to create a tax abatement reinvestment zone and the measure passed unanimously. He submitted a conflict of interest statement at a later date.
Klement said Friday afternoon that he couldn’t comment on the recent court filing due to county policy.
“We do not discuss pending litigation,” Klement said.
Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley also said he can’t comment on ongoing legal matters.
“We are aware that a lawsuit has been filed, but have not officially been served, yet,” Brinkley said Friday morning.
The lawsuit lists the plaintiffs as G.C. and Mary Ellis, David and Karen Sampson, Christopher Bancroft and Rex G. Corey Jr.
David Sampson, who resides within Era Independent School District, said his family has owned and leased land in Cooke County for 30 years. He and his wife, Karen, moved back to the county full time from Washington, D.C. seven years ago.
“We believe this proposed wind energy project represents an existential threat to our community, our county, our property values and our way of life,” David Sampson said Friday. “With so much at stake we must ensure that there is due process and transparency in the governance process and all applicable laws are followed.”
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