The director of the Palo solar farm participated in the county committee vote on the project

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – Kimberly Dickey, project manager for the 3,500-acre solar farm proposed by NextEra Energy, was the former chair of the same Linn County commission that was to vote on its new development. Dickey also helped draft the Linn County Comprehensive Plan, which helps guide the county’s physical, social, and economic development.

There is nothing illegal about a member of a county committee going into the private sector. But, critics against the project believe NextEra has not been transparent about the county’s connection to its manager, who the company describes as a Linn County farmer.

People opposed to the project have complained about the lack of transparency of the Flordia-based company since the project was made public in March. In April, many people first heard about the project after receiving notification in the mail.

Sara Alden, who lives in Toddville, said she has been following the project closely since the start of the year. She said months later that she wasn’t sure exactly where the three different solar panel sites would be.

Alden said that with the company not being openly transparent about the developer’s ties to the county, she had more questions about the project.

“It certainly doesn’t make these transparency issues any clearer,” she said.

Critics, like Alden, are also concerned that Dickey may have worked on the planning and zoning committee while she worked for NextEra. Linn County spokesman Joi Alexander said the county does not require committee members to disclose their employers, but requests relevant work experience.

Alexander also said the county left it to individual committee members to identify potential conflicts of interest and to abstain from voting.

Kimberly Dickey and NextEra Energy declined on-camera interviews with KCRG-TV9’s i9 investigative team. In an emailed statement, Bryan Garner, communications director for NextEra Energy, said there were no legal or ethical issues with Ms Dickey’s former role in county government.

“She served honorably as an unpaid volunteer with the Linn County Planning and Zoning Commission, a position that ended three years ago, long before she began working on the solar project in Linn County, ”he wrote.

NextEra also sent us an email statement from former Linn County Planning and Development Director Les Beck. Beck said any accusation of undue influence is baseless.

“The accusation that someone is leaving the voluntary service of the Planning and Zoning Commission and going to work for a developer because of the influence they might have is without merit,” he wrote.

Megan Goldberg, professor of political science at Cornell College, said people working in government often leave their posts and then use their connections in the private sector to make money. She said these personal connections and institutional knowledge facilitate the success of projects that might otherwise fail.

“So even if you pitch the same project, you with those personal connections might have a better chance of getting that project approved,” Goldberg said.

Copyright 2021 KCRG. All rights reserved.

Source link

About Stephen Ewing

Check Also

Jan 6 panel could see leverage from Bannon’s lawsuit

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to prosecute Stephen Bannon for defying a congressional subpoena …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *