Cohocton Wind Watch: Cohocton officials not contacted by AG wind probe by Bob Clark
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.


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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Cohocton officials not contacted by AG wind probe by Bob Clark

Cohocton, N.Y.

Investigators from the state Attorney General’s Office have been investigating two major New York wind producers — including the one putting up turbines in Cohocton.

So far, however, the investigation has focused on First Wind’s activities, not those of municipal officials who deal with the companies, according to Cohocton town Supervisor Jack Zigenfus.

Zigenfus said Thursday he has not been contacted by the Attorney General’s office, nor have other town officials.

“Not one board member or myself have been contacted about this,” he said.

According to James Hall with local advocacy group Cohocton Wind Watch, that is not true.
“That is an outright, bold-faced misrepresentation,” Hall said, but would not comment on what exactly he meant by the statement. “I think you can read between the lines on that one.

“The Attorney General’s Office has told us not to give out information,” Hall said. “We’ve been involved with the process.”

Hall has been requesting investigations from several agencies for more than two years, he said, into what he has repeatedly attacked as illegal activities on the parts of both town and company officials.

Zigenfus said he does not believe anything illegal was done by First Wind to put its 35 wind turbines turbines on Dutch, Lent and Pine hills.

“I don’t know of any issues that have come up,” he said, adding he has seen no evidence of company officials trying to improperly obtain leases, offer benefits to town officials or involvement in anti-competitive practices in the Cohocton project — the focuses of the Attorney General’s investigation, according to a July 15 press release.

Hall declined to comment how First Wind and town officials may have violated the law, saying he would not discuss information that may be a sensitive part of the investigation.

Another call for an investigation was turned down locally, Hall said, adding he had tried to get the Steuben County District Attorney’s Office to investigate town and company officials on their handling of the project.

In a letter dated Aug. 4, Steuben County District Attorney John Tunney informed Hall the investigation by the state Attorney General’s office will be thorough and if any criminal activities are found to have been committed in Steuben County, the matter will be turned over to county officials.

And manpower also was an issue, according to the letter.

“Additionally, this office is not equipped to conduct investigations, grand jury or otherwise,” the letter states. “We employ no investigators. Rather, we rely on police agencies to provide our investigative services.”

Zigenfus, who has worked in law enforcement for around 30 years, said there was no reason for Tunney’s office to convene a grand jury.

“The DA’s not going to convene a grand jury unless he has something,” he said, adding police start the investigation and pass it to the DA’s office if felony charges are to be filed.

After receiving the letter, Hall said he is dismayed by the decision.

“It’s a sad day for this county when the district attorney won’t meet with a citizen group,” Hall said. “It seems the district attorney in Franklin County is more than willing (to investigate wind companies).”

Hall cited a case in Franklin County where investigators began looking into Noble Environmental Power, the other company now being investigated by the Attorney General’s office.

According to a press release from the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office, the investigation has been forwarded to the Attorney General’s office and is now under the state’s review.

Hall added the investigation he was asking Tunney for was different than what the Attorney General’s office.

“I said we had evidence of wrongdoing in Steuben County, including members of the legislature, which is something entirely different,” he said.

Even if local prosecutors are not going to review wind developers, Hall said he and the rest of CWW are keeping bus by trying to block an initial public offering of First Wind stock. Hall said CWW petitioning the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to halt the IPO based on the current investigation, along with the standing lawsuits filed by CWW against First Wind in Steuben County Supreme Court and other issues.

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