Neighbors of a proposed nuclear power plant in Payette County have filed a complaint against it in district court. They say the plant is part of a stock scheme, and that Payette County has played a role in this complicated case.
The suit accuses Alternate Energy Holdings of manipulating its stock price as part of a fraud scheme. It says the company has never had any revenues, never shown a profit, and never built anything. It also blames Payette County officials for joining in the scheme.
Nels Mitchell is one of the attorneys representing a group of property owners who filed the complaint. “This group of property owners, this group of ranchers, they have filed this lawsuit in order to protect their property and their way of life," says Mitchell, "and they’re not seeking damages, they’re just seeking to undo the damage that has been done by the actions of the Payette County officials.”
At issue are two moves by Payette County. One rezoned the land in question from agricultural to heavy industrial use, clearing the way for a proposed nuclear power plant. The other is a 20-year development agreement between the county and AEHI. Mitchell says Payette County’s approval of the nuke project gave Alternate Energy Holdings a chance to pump up its stock. “AEHI was able to raise, from private stock offerings, 9.1 million dollars during the first six months of Payette County’s involvement, which is more than it had raised in the previous three years of its promotional efforts, you can see the type of impact that it had on the stock fraud scheme.”
In a written statement Wednesday, the President of Alternate Energy Holdings, Don Gillispie, called the complaint a “shenanigan” and a “desperate measure.” He said it comes from the same group of “Not In My Backyard” nuclear plant opponents who have tried before to stop the project. Gillispie says it was a “smear campaign” against AEHI and Payette County, which he says legally approved requests for a rezone of the land.
Payette County Commissioners were not available for comment this week. Attorney for the plaintiffs, Nels Mitchell, says landowners want both the rezone and the 20-year development agreement declared null and void. The next move in the case will come from Idaho’s Third District Court.
Here's the complaint, and here's the full statement from AEHI:
Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc. today announced the company disputes a current lawsuit, which was filed by generally the same small group of “not in my backyard”(NIMBY) opponents that has continued to oppose AEHI’s proposal to build a nuclear power plant in Payette County, also called the Idaho Energy Complex.
The suit attempts to overturn recent decisions by county officials through the court system. It does so by referencing implications from U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission allegations and making statements that sound strangely similar to those previously made by members of the Snake River Alliance (Idaho anti-nuclear activists).
However, it goes on step further by also implicating Payette County officials in an alleged scheme to defraud investors.
“This is an absolutely preposterous lawsuit, and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence they filed it directly after losing an attempt to consolidate two petitions for judicial review. To date they have lost every attempt at halting AEHI’s project in Payette County and now they are apparently looking to accomplish their goals through a smear campaign in the courts. Only this time they are not only smearing AEHI but now they also include Payette County, which involves a variety of elected officials who spent over 18 months reviewing and eventually legally approving our requests for a rezone. These elected officials work for the good of their entire county and to have a few disgruntled people trying to impose their will on the rest of their community through a series of defamatory statements is reprehensible,”said Don Gillispie, AEHI CEO.
In April 2010 this same general group lost its attempts to stop the Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission (the “Commission”) and the Board of County Commissioners (the “Board”) from approving a change to the county’s comprehensive plan.
In March 2011, the group lost an appeal before the Board of the Commission’s approval of a height variance and recommendation of approval for a rezone of the Idaho Energy Complex property.
In June 2011 they also lost in an attempt before the courts to halt the rezone proceedings before the Board. As mentioned, the rezone was recommended for approval by the Commission. It was then unanimously approved by the Board.
In February 2012, the Board rejected this same general group’s arguments in support of suspension of any work on the Idaho Energy Complex while court proceedings are pending.
Then, just a few days ago, on April 11, 2012, they lost an attempt to consolidate two petitions for judicial review. The petitions are aimed at reversing the height variance and rezone approvals by Payette County.
“They have lost at every turn, so I suppose they are now resorting to the most extreme of desperate measures. I am hopeful that the court will see through these shenanigans and put this issue to bed once and for all,”said Gillispie.