CAPE VINCENT — Town Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey apparently is off the hook after being accused of breaking state law by allegedly leaking "confidential" documents to the public.
In a letter to the Town Council, Mark G. Gebo, town attorney, wrote that Stacy Aronowitz, deputy chief of the Public Integrity Bureau at the state attorney general's office, advised him on March 7 that the office "will not be taking action" on the town's request for an investigation into the allegations that Mr. Hirschey violated General Municipal Law by leaking attorney-client-privileged documents to the Wind Power Ethics Group.
The wind group has been citing the documents — a series of 51 written dialogues among the Cape Vincent Planning Board, its attorney, Todd M. Mathes, engineers from Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, and representatives from Cavanaugh Tocci Associates — as proof that the study on ambient sound levels in Cape Vincent conducted by Hessler Associates Inc., a Virginia-based consulting firm hired by the developers of two proposed wind projects in the town, should not be used as the foundation for a zoning law on wind development.
"There was nothing that I didn't expect," Mr. Hirschey said about the state's decision.
In January — after the so-called "Soundgate documents" were made public, against Mr. Mathes's advice — advocates of wind development called for Mr. Hirschey's resignation, arguing that his actions were illegal and that he was assisting the anti-wind group in a lawsuit against the Planning Board.
In response, the Town Council voted 3-1 at its Jan. 13 meeting to request that the attorney general's office launch an investigation into Mr. Hirschey's actions.
Thomas K. Rienbeck — former supervisor and a member of the Planning Board who was among those demanding Mr. Hirschey's resignation — said he still believes Mr. Hirschey had no right to release the documents to WPEG without a majority vote of the Town Council and argued that the swift decision to dismiss the council's request shows bias by the attorney general's office.
"If you can make a decision that quickly on a wrongdoing by the town supervisor, why haven't you made a decision on the supposedly conflicted town board members? Obviously, he knows people who can pull strings," Mr. Rienbeck said.
However, Hester M. Chase, founder of the St. Lawrence River Public Power Association and a supporter of Mr. Hirschey, said wind advocates had no legal ground to stand on to begin with.
"The 'Soundgate papers' have no confidential information in them. The whole thing was to suppress the fact that our sound study was flawed," she said.
WPEG filed the state Supreme Court lawsuit in October, accusing the Cape Vincent Planning Board of violating the state Environmental Quality Review Act and conflict-of-interest laws following the Planning Board's approval of the final environmental impact statement for the St. Lawrence Wind Farm project in September.
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Hirschey case dropped...