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Supervisors debate quid pro quo

Gary
Walker

The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors recently voted 5-2 to approve a request for a conditional use permit (CUP) for a solar facility in Red House, but not before Supervisor Kay Pierantoni and Vice Chairman Gary Walker exchanged some differences of opinions.

Pierantoni, who represents the Wylliesburg/Red Oak District, voted against the CUP and said Walker should abstain from voting, claiming he asked for gifts for his district.

Walker voted yes for the CUP and pointed out to Pierantioni that she was bordering on slander.

During its December BOS meeting, members tabled the vote on approving the CUP, citing more information was needed.

Kay
Pierantoni

Both supervisors Pierantoni and Phenix/Aspen Supervisor Donna Fore said they needed more information on decommissioning the solar farm after its useful life was complete, and the impact fees associated with such before they could vote.

During the Dec. meeting, Executive Partner Stan Allison with Holocene Clean Energy was on hand to address questions and explain the project.

It was at that meeting that Pierantoni asked Allison to explain what happened on another solar project that Holoclean was approved for in the County.

“What happened on your other, um… do I want to say gift to the county?” Pierantoni asked.

Allison explained that after the CUP was approved for the Twitty’s Creek Solar Project, he asked then Chairman Walker if there was anything Holoclean could do for the county.

“He said, well, you know, we need to pave this driveway over here at the new fire station,” Allison said. “This was in August 2017.”

According to Pierantoni, this was a $60,000 gift to Charlotte Court House, which is the district represented by Vice-Chairman Walker. She said the driveway paving was requested by Walker and not approved by the board or presented in an open meeting.

Allison noted in that meeting that it was a year later before the driveway was paved.

Over the past couple of years, Holoclean has taken some heat from citizens because the Drakes Branch Volunteer Fire Department was heavily damaged during Hurricane Michael and was in much need of financial help that could have helped with repairs.

Allison also said Holoclean had already made a commitment to the Charlotte Courthouse Volunteer Fire Department.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, The Charlotte Gazette requested the email from Supervisor Pierantoni that she sent to Walker.

In a Feb. 10 email addressed to Walker and copied to all other BOS members, Pierantoni wrote,

“I am respectfully requesting that you abstain from discussion and voting on the Holocene project at tonight’s meeting. I make this request due to the following facts:

You were the Chairman of the Board when the Holocene’s Twitty’s Creek project in Drakes Branch was approved in August 2017. The decommissioning plan for that project, I believe, will prove not to be adequate.

You were involved in Holocene’s generous gift to CCH this past April, a month before they announced their plans for the Red House project. No other board members were consulted. It is particularly worrisome when this was a year in which you were up for reelection. Securing a large gift for your district could be construed in many ways.

I am not trying to be hurtful, only being honest in my opinion of the situation. I felt saying this to you before the open meeting was the correct action. I hope you will consider my request,” the email cited.

Vice-Chairman Walker patiently waited until the end of the Feb. 10 BOS meeting to address the email.

“You spent the last year and a half calling my integrity into question with no proof, just on the things that you assumed to happen,” Walker said. “You border on slander, and I’m tired of it. Now you’re trying to hold up business coming to the county until they make certain promises of donations before you are willing to vote for the project. You are doing what’s called pay to play in business, and in politics is called quid pro quo.”

Walker continued to address Pierantoni, “In the past, you have threatened me and other board members that we will be opposed in the next election if we voted against your pet projects, and then you actively recruited candidates to run against me in the general election. There are over 600 people in my precinct that voted in the last election, and only 23 of them voted for someone else … the people in my district want me to vote on their behalf, and that’s just what I intend to do whether you like it or not.”