For the second time in as many weeks, a local businessman appeared before the Henry County Commissioners with emails he said prove local officials have been working behind closed doors to facilitate development of wind farms.
Gary Rodgers, a former Henry County resident, is one of the more vocal critics of wind farm development as proposed in Henry County.
As was previously reported in The Courier-Times, Rodgers produced three emails at last week’s commissioners’ meeting he alleged demonstrated “conspiracy and collusion” involving New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Corey Murphy, the county commissioners and wind developers.
This week, Rodgers again produced three emails he obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request that he indicated reinforce his allegations from last week.
The first, dated June 21, 2017, was from Murphy to several local officials and was in regards to the sale of David Herring’s Henry County home. Herring has also been a vocal critic of wind farm development and ran an unsuccessful campaign for county commissioner last year, a campaign that relied heavily on an anti-wind platform.
Murphy’s email, like the one Rodgers produced last week regarding the sale of his home, shared that Herring sold his house and property for a 16.2 percent profit. Murphy appeared to be trying to demonstrate property values don’t decline because of fears about the possibility industrial wind turbines (IWTs) are coming to the area, as the opponents of IWTs have claimed.
As was the case with the sale of his home, Rodgers said there were extenuating circumstances that contributed to Herring’s profit and said this was another case of Murphy intentionally trying to mislead county officials.
The second email, dated June 1, 2016, was from Apex Clean Energy representative Brenna Gunderson to EDC staff member Penny York.
In it, York, in responding to Gunderson, states she told commissioners Kim Cronk and Butch Baker that Gunderson might attend one of the commissioners work sessions.
York’s email states, in part: “Kim was hesitant thinking that he didn’t want anyone to think that they were trying to conduct any ‘off the record business about wind mills’ and Butch said you certainly could [attend] if you wanted and wanted you to be aware that there might be the anti-wind folks there as they are at most public meeting that are held recently. ... Remember-you are always welcome in Henry County and both commissioners remind me that they can be reached by phone anytime you want to discuss anything with them.”
The third email, dated Jan. 20, 2017, was from Calpine representative Derek Rieman to Baker and was in regards to several proposed additions to Henry County’s existing wind energy conversion system (WECS) ordinance Rieman said Calpine “could support.”
Rodgers said that because of the Freedom of Information Act, “the people now are learning what it is you’re doing behind closed doors, what it is you’re doing with wind energy companies and what kind of horrible advice your trusted advisors are giving you.”
Rodgers said during his closing comments, “I recommend you avoid that advisor. I recommend you avoid that advice and start listening to the people who have done the research, who have pulled together the information that will actually protect the citizens of Henry County.”
Rodgers closed by saying the WECS ordinance was the only thing protecting local residents and that it was the commissioners’ job to make sure the ordinance was written in such a way that Henry County residents are protected.
Murphy was not present at Wednesday’s meeting of the commissioners and declined to comment on this story.
He previously stated there was nothing misleading about the email he sent regarding the sale of Rodgers’ home and was only sharing the information available on the county’s GIS system (Beacon). His email regarding the sale of Herring’s home also stated the information he shared was from Beacon.
The commissioners declined comment on Rodgers’ latest concerns.