HURON COUNTY — A candidate for the Huron County Planning Commission says that officials who have wind-energy contracts may have a conflict of interest.
But the outgoing head of the commission disagrees.
For a number of years, five of nine Huron County planning commissioners had wind contracts, said Robert McLean, vice chair of the Paris Township Planning Commission. He was a member of the former Huron County Wind Energy Zoning Committee, and is running for a seat on the county planning commission.
“The fox was guarding the hen house way back when,” McLean told the Tribune recently.
Today, three of the eight sitting planning commissioners have contracts.
Two of those commissioners, Chair Clark Brock and Joel Weber, are retiring at the end of the month.
Brock told the Tribune that in such a small community where public officials do business, a lot of things can be perceived as a conflict of interest.
“If every time an issue came up that I was personally involved with, I would have had to excuse myself many times,” he said, noting that “nothing would have gotten done” if no one could vote because of a business dealing.
He added that on many occasions, planners have excused themselves from voting when they have the potential to profit from an issue.
Weber, who has a contract with Huron Wind LLC — a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, abstained from voting when approval of the Huron Wind project came before the planning commission last year.
Brock said he has tried to do what’s best for the county during his 29 years on the commission.
“I always tried not to have any of my personal feelings affect my decisions,” Brock said.
“When I was a planning commission member, everything I did was what I felt was in the best interest of the county.”
“I hope people look at this and understand that just because you may have a contract doesn’t auto make you a biased person.”
He added that planners who are members of anti-wind groups could be perceived as having a conflict as well.
There are four open seats on the nine-member commission. Interviews to fill the seats take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Huron County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Commissioner Bernie Creguer is up for reappointment, and the Huron County Board of Commissioners has not determined whether a board member will replace Commissioner John A. Nugent on the planning commission.
The board will first consider members of the pubic who apply before deciding whether to appoint a board member to the seat.
The following men will interview for the seats: Charles Bumhoffer, Creuger, Bill Goretski, Keith Iseler, Michael Lorencz, McLean, Rich Swartzendruber, Bill Renn, Carl Rader and Ken Walker.
Of those, the following have wind energy contracts, according to the Huron County Register of Deeds Office:
• Iseler: Memo of lease — RES North America
• Rader: Memo of standard utility easement — DTE
• Goretski: Memo of standard utility easement — DTE
See page 6A for a list of county and township officials and whether on not they have wind energy contracts.