Let’s talk TRUTH about the wind turbine lawsuit

Let’s talk TRUTH about the wind turbine lawsuit
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)

Addison has once again been subjected to a wildly inaccurate, grossly misleading and entirely inappropriate missive about the wind turbine lawsuit.  It includes outrageous, unfounded and slanderous attacks on former City Managers Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn simply because they provided truthful testimony.  Enough is enough.  One would have hoped that these tactics would abate, given the results of the last two elections.  But, here we are again, with the same people once again trying to mislead Addison residents.  So, let’s talk TRUTH about this lawsuit.

The wind turbines haven’t worked out for Addison.  That’s clear.  On May 14, 2014, Addison’s Council approved a contract with Landmark Structures LLP for removal of the turbines.  That decision was based on concerns expressed by staff regarding the possibility of a turbine blade falling off the tower in an uncontrolled manner, possibly endangering those below. Staff recommended Landmark for the removal because Landmark had built the water tower and installed the turbines and was “more familiar with the system than any other contractor.”  On May 14, 2014, when this vote was taken, the Council still included Neil Resnik and Margie Guenther – or, in other words, the Council was not controlled by former mayor Meier.

The May 2014 election delivered control of the Council to Meier, and his cadre took office shortly after the referenced vote was taken.  It didn’t take long for them to reverse course.  In the Fall of 2014, Addison’s attorney, now apparently taking direction from the Council (not the staff who by Charter are exclusively empowered to act on behalf of the Town), notified Landmark that (a) Addison intended to take legal action against Landmark in connection with the wind turbines and, (b) Addison would not honor the contract with Landmark to remove the wind turbines. That’s why the supposedly dangerous turbines are still sitting on the water tower more than three years later.

In July 2015, Addison’s attorney filed a lawsuit against Landmark and Urban Green Energy (“UGE”), making claims for negligence, breach of contract and breach of warranty.  But within a few short months, things took yet another turn, and here’s where the whole thing got sticky and created the problems which have now prompted the outrageous attacks on Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn.  On September 28, 2015, Addison’s attorney filed an amended petition that added a fraudulent inducement claim. Addison now alleged that Landmark “and/or” UGE had represented “to Addison” that the wind turbines would produce “a substantial amount of energy,” and that these representations were false.

The allegation that representations were made “to Addison” focuses us on an important issue.  Addison is an inanimate municipality. So, it can only act and receive information – such as “representations” – through authorized representatives.  That means that for “representations” to have been made “to Addison” as the amended petition claimed, they had to have been made to someone, and that someone had to be an authorized representative of Addison.  That would include people like Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn, for example, who had both served Addison during the discussions about this project.

All of which means that if you’re going to allege that “representations” were made “to Addison,” you damn sure better interview Addison’s authorized representatives to see whether it’s true.  Incredibly – inexplicably, really – neither Ron Whitehead nor Lea Dunn were interviewed before the Meier-controlled Council allowed the aggressive play of alleging fraud.  Instead, Addison apparently took the Ready-Fire-Aim approach of making allegations first and asking questions later.

And, as it turns out, when both Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn were finally asked about the issue, both testified under oath that Landmark did not make such representations to either of them.

It is this testimony that is the subject of the latest facts-don’t-matter missive.  Both Lea Dunn and Ron Whitehead are attacked for testifying TRUTHFULLY that Landmark didn’t make any misrepresentations to them about the wind turbines.  Ron Whitehead in particular is targeted for his TRUTHFUL testimony, which is inappropriately spun as “joining the opposition.”  They go so far as to call Ron a “traitor,” claiming that he has “betrayed” Addison.  All because he gave TRUTHFUL testimony.  They even bring up his compensation as an employee in support of the outrageous suggestion that the salary and pension Ron earned for his thirty-two years of dedicated service to Addison should have BOUGHT whatever testimony would have supported the apparently false narrative adopted by the Meier-led council.  Even if it’s all false.  It’s beyond belief; these people are essentially claiming that Addison residents BOUGHT the right to demand that Ron Whitehead commit perjury.  What an outrageous and ignorant assertion for anyone to make!

The torrent of unjustified and improper attacks concludes with the claim that the “reasonable and ethical” standard that should have guided Ron Whitehead was that he should have “want[ed] to see some measure of taxpayer dollars reimbursed to the town and its taxpayers.”  In other words, they claim that Ron’s focus should have been on getting the town money, apparently without regard to the truth.  It is utterly disgusting.  But then, we shouldn’t be surprised.  Time and time again during the prior six-year tyrannical administration, we saw that exact tactic: That the end (here, “reimbursement to the town”) justified the means (here, adopting a false narrative).

So, why has this horribly inappropriate missive from the Meier-supporting facts-don’t-matter folks been published now?  It’s simple.  Landmark has now filed a motion in which it alleges that all of Addison’s claims are without merit.  That has cast a pall on the Meier-led strategy, and they are clearly concerned that the result will be unfavorable.  So, the spin machine is revving up, spewing its typical mischaracterizations and deceit, as the prior administration and its sycophant supporters search for scapegoats.  It’s the same old story.  For six years, the buck never stopped with the tyrant sitting in the middle of the dais.

To attack Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn on this basis is utterly despicable.  But it demonstrates yet again why Addison needs to keep moving forward and away from these destructive tactics.

Addison must respond to Landmark’s motion in early November.  The challenge for Addison is to identify sufficient evidence to support its claims, such that the matter should proceed to a trial (as opposed to simply declaring Landmark the winner now).  On this point, the facts-don’t-matter folks say they have some poster that they claim was once displayed in the post office.  Even if that’s true, unless there is a way to tie what it says to something Landmark represented to Addison, it won’t amount to a hill of beans.  I’m assuming it was provided to Addison’s counsel and, if it supports the fraud claims, that he will include it in Addison’s response.

In the meantime, be very clear about this: We lawyers allege what the facts will support.  We don’t allege whatever we want and then demand that witnesses alter their testimony to support what we allege without regard to the truth.  That’s called suborning perjury and it’s wrongful.  All of which means that the problem here isn’t the fact that TRUTHFUL testimony was given by Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn when they were finally asked what happened. No, the problem here is that Addison’s prior Council apparently allowed the fraud allegations to be made in the lawsuit before they knew what the truth was. We’ll certainly have a better sense for that when Addison files its response to Landmark’s motion.

The current Council inherited this lawsuit and any number of other problems that were caused during the prior administration.  I’ve written again and again that it will take Addison years to recover from the damage that was done.  The outrageous and unjustified attacks on Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn in an effort to evade responsibility for what now appear to have been irresponsible decisions give us yet another example of what Addison will be required to deal with for some time to come.

And make no mistake about this: The attacks on the current Council with which the facts-don’t-matter missive concludes are politically motivated.  They confirm that Addison residents must remain vigilant so that we can continue moving forward in a positive direction, solving problems rather than needlessly creating them.