County Commissioners balk at legal bill over wind farm
County commissioners balked Monday at paying a bill from Wichita attorney Pat Hughes that includes consultations regarding a proposed wind farm in the south portion of the county.
The bill, for the month of April with a balance forward from an unpaid bill for March, totals $9,575. Of that, $2,350 is for March consultations and $7,350 is for April consultations, but not all items involved Expedition Wind Farm.
Items listed include conferences with planning and zoning director Sharon Omstead; revisions of notices of hearing; reviews and assessments of a wind farm conditional use permit application; review of staff report and concerns; revision of a staff report and a letter to Patrick Pelstring, CEO of wind farm developer National Renewable Solutions; emails and calls regarding various portions of the application and issues; a conference and e-mails with the attorney for the wind farm; and like items.
The bill also includes four hours for Hughes to attend an April 29 commission meeting at the commissioners’ request and three and a half hours spent
analyzing issues related to the Diamond Vista wind farm in the northern portion of the county.
Commissioner Dianne Novak said after the meeting that she hasn’t had respect for Hughes since he asked the commission about a year ago, during negotiations with Diamond Vista Wind Farm, if he could represent both the wind farm company and the county.
She said also that she doesn’t like the idea that Hughes revised work done by Omstead.
“I’m not happy with it at all,” Novak said.
Novak said she doesn’t agree with hiring people for county jobs just because they are county residents.
County clerk Tina Spencer said the county has paid $3,650 in legal bills related to Expedition Wind Farm to date.
“In addition, we have received a new billing in the amount of $7,350 specific to the project, which will bring the total to $11,000,” Spencer said. “I believe some of that will likely be recovered from the project. We have also received an additional invoice in the amount of $1,100 on the Diamond Vista project, which will bring that total to $22,175. Of that $16,600 has been reimbursed by the project.”
Omstead said wind farm developer NRS earlier said it would pay third-party expenses related to its wind farm.
“In the case that any third party, such as Pat Hughes provides counsel or advice to Expedition or answers questions for Expedition to assist in their permit process, Expedition agrees to pay any such third party cost directly from the interaction with any of these providers,” an email from Pelstring told Omstead.
Typically, the county would pay for Hughes’ services and then forward the expenses to the wind farm, Omstead said.
Omstead said the portion of the $9,575 bill actually attributable to her department is “just under half.”
“The rest of it was Pat Hughes conferencing with commissioners and with Tina (Spencer) on different things,” Omstead said.
Last modified May 23, 2019