Recycled Efforts to Create Controversy:
Spinning The Wind Turbine Lawsuit Still Doesn’t Fly
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)
Well, it’s election season in Addison, and unfortunately the former mayor’s sycophants are at it again. They even found a willing partner in the Dallas Morning News, which once again adopted the false narrative suggested by the facts-don’t-matter folks. It’s not the first time the DMN has fallen for it, and it likely won’t be the last. And, for good measure, these folks even stirred up some more bad publicity for Addison from a local TV station, continuing to operate from the “harm Addison” playbook as a way of advancing their “divide-the-community” strategy.
We saw this for six years before Joe Chow was elected in 2017. The tactics are always the same: the spin, the false narrative, efforts to cast Addison in a bad light through the media. Then the posts start on “NextDoor,” followed by claims that because it’s posted somewhere, it must somehow be true. It’s all very circular. But then, we survived six years of claims that the more times the false narrative is repeated, the truer it somehow becomes.
We’ll survive this nonsense again. Because the false narrative doesn’t ever become true. It never helps the community advance. It exemplifies a self-above-community mentality, where harm to the community is willingly inflicted in an effort to promote self. Indeed, harm to the community seems to these folks to be nothing more than a necessary by-product of their quest for power.
So, again, we see the same old recycled efforts to spin the wind turbine lawsuit. It’s nothing more than an effort to stir up controversy, create division within the community, and of course attack everyone who isn’t them. In other words, the same tactics we saw for six years before last year’s election. And, they attack the same folks every time: any councilmember who disagrees with them, including all members of the current council and, of course, prior staff, most notably Ron Whitehead, whose remarkable 32 years of service to Addison created almost all of the beauty you see around you in our community. It’s shameful. And, the problem with it all is that the attacks always leave out some really, REALLY important facts and concepts. So, let’s fill in a few gaps.
Yes, the wind turbines didn’t perform properly. We all get it. In the lawsuit, Addison claims that’s the fault of Landmark Structures LLP and others. But interestingly, in the oft-repeated rhetoric, these folks blame Ron Whitehead. Think about that for a moment. If you buy a new refrigerator and it doesn’t work, do you blame yourself for choosing a product that failed? Or do you look at a buying experience that included advice from refrigerator experts, and then try to enforce your warranty? The answer seems pretty simple and straightforward, doesn’t it? And, at first glance, Addison did what you would do: sought to enforce its warranty.
But then the ex-mayor and his captive council changed things, and plead fraud. That’s a somewhat aggressive posture in a contract case, and something about which you should be very sure before pleading it. And that’s where the problems started. You see, Addison’s ex-mayor and his captive council apparently didn’t ensure that Addison had all the facts before pleading fraud. Most notably, no one interviewed key witnesses, including Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn. That’s inexcusable and it’s entirely backwards. You see, we lawyers plead what the evidence supports. We don’t plead what we want and then demand that witnesses adopt our chosen narrative. All of which means you have to know what the facts are BEFORE you plead your case. And that didn’t happen here.
So, when Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn were finally asked about what happened, it turns out that it wasn’t what Addison had claimed. And on that basis – for giving truthful testimony – Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn have been repeatedly attacked as being “traitors” and “disloyal.” It is beyond outrageous, and nothing less than an affront to our system of government. I can’t fathom how it isn’t construed as an effort to intimidate these fact witnesses, which is its own brand of reprehensible.
The lawsuit also has to be considered in the face of the mass exodus of employees who fled the toxic atmosphere created by the prior administration. That exodus included every department head, except for two. In addition to costing Addison hundreds of thousands of dollars, we watched hundreds of years of Addison knowledge and institutional history walk out the door. That’s a problem for Addison on many levels, including with respect to this lawsuit. And it all happened before the current council took office. But don’t expect these folks to ever acknowledge it. Wherever the buck stops, it’s never been with them.
It also turns out that the prior administration did not ensure that the emails of departing employees were preserved. That’s the subject of the spoliation motion filed by Landmark. That’s right, it all happened on the ex-mayor’s watch. Now, the spoliation claim may never amount to anything, as suggested by Addison in its response to the motion. But again, where does the buck stop on issues like this?
In the end, this is the same old recycled rhetoric. These are the same false, inappropriate attacks on Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn, both of whom did nothing more than provide truthful testimony. And, by the way, dedicated years of hard work to Addison that benefitted our community in tangible ways that impact all of us every day. And the astonishing part of the whole charade is that every last bit of what these folks complain about occurred on the watch of the prior administration. The current council inherited the whole mess: the apparently insupportable fraud claim, the conduct leading to the spoliation motion, the decisions regarding pleadings, the exodus of employees. And the current council is doing a great job managing a mess they didn’t create.
You have to also ask: why bring it all up again now? The answer is clear. History is repeating itself. In the last two elections, this same group worked to create false issues during election season, in an unsuccessful effort to influence voters. It’s election season again, and it would seem that these folks intend to run some candidates. So, they’re doing the same thing they’ve done every year: setting up a false issue so that they can attack candidates who aren’t their candidates. It’s shameful and destructive, and it does nothing to help Addison.
The wind turbine lawsuit is set for trial in March. There are summary judgment motions pending, and Addison has filed well-constructed responses to these motions. The motions seem unlikely to succeed, which is good for Addison. The fraud claim may end up being a bust, but the other claims seem to have significant factual support. We’ll see what happens as it all plays out.
In the meantime, don’t fall for the spin on the wind turbines that couldn’t. See it for what it is. Addison finally has a cohesive council, determined to conduct its work without fanfare and theatrics, led by a mayor dedicated to public service rather than one focused on personal aggrandizement. It’s refreshing and positive. Addison is moving in the right direction and nothing about this lawsuit changes that fact. Because all is well in Addison.