Special Facts Matter Edition – What’s Up With Your $1.15M Taxpayer Dollars and The Wind Turbines Lawsuit

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As you know, Facts Matter was suspended a few months ago.  Since then we have heard from many of you that without FM there has been little detailed information on several Town activities.  We have also had numerous inquiries as to whether we would consider re-instating FM.  Given current commitments, including some substantial research and writing, it is not possible to commit to providing weekly issues as was previously done. However, what we do commit to is that when there appears to be little information related from the Town on significant issues, we are committed to bringing pertinent information to you.  Such is the case with the information in this special edition.  

Remember the Town’s lawsuit regarding the wind turbines?

Back in February 2011, the Council voted to approve a $5,704,900 contract with Landmark Structures, the sole bidder on the water tower project. Roughly $1.15M of this was for the purchase and installation of the wind energy system (wind turbines).  Council members Bruce Arfsten, Blake Clemens, Kimberly Lay, Roger Mellow, Bianca Noble and Neil Resnik voted in favor of the contract.  Mayor Joe Chow voted “no.”

Within three months of the wind energy system’s operation, one of its turbines fell from the water tower.  The turbines were retrofitted and placed back, however, in December 2012, a blade from one of the turbines spun off and landed on a conference table in a nearby building resulting in the turbines again being removed from service and being re-engineered.  In January 2014, another wind turbine blade fell to the ground and broke into multiple pieces, causing significant damage to the wind energy system.  Following this third failure of the system during its limited periods of actual operation, the Town of Addison decommissioned the system and ceased its operation out of both performance and safety concerns.

After more than a year of failed efforts to resolve the Town’s performance concerns regarding the failed system, in July 2015, the Town of Addison instituted suit against Landmark Structures and Urban Green Energy alleging breach of contract, breach of warranty and negligence and to recover the $1.15M of taxpayer dollars for cost of the wind energy system.

While virtually nothing has been heard about this lawsuit for months, if you read the agenda for this week’s Council meeting you will note that listed on the agenda as a Closed Executive item is:  “Town of Addison v. Landmark Structures I, L.P. and Urban Green Energy Cause No. DC-15-0761 44th Judicial Court, Dallas, County.”

Curiosity drove FM to investigate the status of this lawsuit and found several very interesting things that seem only fair to make Addison taxpayers aware of.

First of all, the case number noted in the agenda is wrong.  Whether this was intentional or a sloppy clerical error, with a little investigative work the accurate case number was found.  Also found was that Landmark Structures I, L. P. has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment.  This was filed earlier this month in an attempt by Landmark to dismiss the case.

Given the causes stated in the lawsuit, Addison residents may find it quite interesting to learn that according to Landmark’s summary argument, “Addison hired Landmark to erect a water tower and directed Landmark to install eight wind turbines atop the tower as a public relations statement.”

Really?  We find it very interesting that the former City Manager [Ron Whitehead], and the former Council decided to spend $1.15M of taxpayer’s money for “a public relations statement”.  How realistic is that?  We also find it interesting that this would have been the rationale provided to the State Government when the City Manager also sought some $400,000 grant funding for a portion of the expense.  But, since Ron Whitehead, who was the City Manager at that time, is known to have joined the Landmark team, providing information to them regarding this lawsuit, this must be what Whitehead now contends.  Now that’s what you call high dollar P.R.

In case you may have forgotten, it was during a mediation meeting that the Town’s lawyer and representatives were informed that Ron Whitehead was part of Landmark’s negotiating team.  This came as a complete surprise to then acting City Manager Charles Daniels, the staff and Council who questioned why Ron Whitehead would be communicating about this issue with Landmark instead of officials of the Town he had managed for 32 years.  Wasn’t that his moral duty, it was questioned?  But to this day, Whitehead’s continued involvement with Landmark is quite evident from Landmark’s Summary Judgment Motion.

The Motion states, “The Town’s lawsuit states quite plainly that Landmark represented to Addison that this System would produce a substantial amount of energy, perhaps so much that Addison could sell energy generated by the Wind Turbine System back to the power grid.”  But, Landmark states, “This allegation is false and was expressly contradicted by the Town’s former managers [Whitehead and Dunn].  Further, according to Landmark, the former City Managers [that would be Whitehead and Dunn) “explained that the Town of Addison decided in 2009-10 to have Turbines installed, long before Landmark ever bid on the job.”

Seemingly contrary to this, FM found a poster that the Town staff had posted in the Post Office following the project’s approval.  Here, in part, is what the poster said:

“Addison is on tap to become the first Texas municipality (and one of the few in the country) to build a self-powered water tower that doubles as a piece of art.  Wind turbines on top of the tower will provide enough energy to run the tower as well as the street lights on Arapaho Road.  The proposal includes a classroom at the base of the tower where people can learn about wind generation and water distribution.”

Landmark’s Motion also states that Lea Dunn and Ron Whitehead deny that Landmark or FNI [Freese & Nichols] ever misrepresented any information—a significant point of Addison’s lawsuit.

So clearly we have Ron Whitehead, our former City Manager who was paid handsomely by Addison taxpayers for 32 years to represent Addison in the highest ethical manner, joining the opposition to work against the Town once he was no longer on the payroll.  And, at the same time—and to this very day—Whitehead is collecting a hefty retirement.  Not only would most honest, law-abiding citizens consider this action a betrayal and unethical—but many would simply see Whitehead’s actions to be representative of one who has been a traitor to the Town and its taxpayers.  Would it not have been considered more reasonable and ethical that Whitehead would want to see some measure of taxpayer dollars reimbursed to the town and its taxpayers?  Would that not have been the more ethical and loyal thing to do?

What a Conundrum for Addison

This same man—Ron Whitehead—who now sides with the defendant in Addison’s lawsuit, and betrays the Town and its citizens, is the same man who promoted the campaign that elected the current Mayor and all current Council members which begs the question—can the current Mayor and Council be trusted to be making decisions about this lawsuit that are in the best interest of Addison or are they beholden to the man who helped get them elected?

Is that why we haven’t heard more about this lawsuit?

Will we hear anything about this lawsuit at the October 30 Town Meeting?

Since the money for this wind turbine project was part of a bond package and bond funds were used to pay for the project, we will be paying for a failed project for the next 20 years.  Isn’t recouping that money worth fighting for?

Most importantly, do you, an Addison resident and taxpayer, care?

Who’s really watching out for Addison and our taxpayer dollars?