Pine Township officials are backing off from using the same law firm to help update the township’s wind ordinance who is also representing a wind energy developer looking to construct turbines within the township.
Ed Hansen, who was formerly the supervisor of Pine Township, signed a waiver with Grand Rapids-based law firm Dickinson Wright in May 2020.
The waiver stated: “Pine Township agrees and consents to the representation of Apex (Clean) Wind Energy by the law firm of Dickinson Wright relative to the wind farm project being planned for Montcalm County, including a number of townships including Pine Township, as described in the correspondence above. Pine Township waives any conflict of interest relative such representation, but only to the extent described in the correspondence above” (referencing a waiver request submitted to the township by Dickinson Wright attorney Ronald Bultje).
The Daily News obtained a copy of the waiver via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request after the topic of possible attorney conflict of interest came up at the Aug. 16 Pine Township Planning Commission meeting.
After audience members began to ask whether township officials might consider using another law firm not involved with Apex Clean Energy, the Planning Commission abruptly voted 4-3 to adjourn the meeting in the middle of public comment (which is a violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act).
Dickinson Wright attorneys have represented Apex locally in recent months on the topic of wind ordinances. The Pine Township Planning Commission was scheduled to meet on Aug. 30 with Bultje to discuss their own wind ordinance, but that meeting was canceled after the Daily News published a story on Aug. 21 about the attorney/township waiver.
This week, Pine Township Supervisor Bill Drews told the Daily News that the township board will discuss hiring a different law firm to help update the township’s wind ordinance.
“We will retain the (Dickinson Wright) attorney that we’ve had for years and years and years to help us with other issues that don’t involve wind, but we will considering a different firm to handle any of the wind legal issues,” Drews said. “We’ve looked at a firm and we’ll be talking about it at our meeting on Monday night.”
Drews declined to specify which law firm is being considered.
“A firm that’s that large (Dickinson Wright) could, I believe, have effectively represented both parties, but when you have that cry of foul, you’re not going to make everyone happy,” Drews added.
“There’s just a lot going on right now,” he summarized.
The Pine Township Board will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday at the township hall.
The Planning Commission is next scheduled to meet on Oct. 11.
[rest of article available at source]
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