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Cape Vincent Planning Board wants to switch law firms over suspicion of pro-wind bias

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CAPE VINCENT — The town Planning Board plans to switch law firms in a symbolic gesture to show it has cut all ties with its previous attorney who, board members said, had been representing the interest of his pro-wind clients on the board.

Planning Board Chairman Richard H. Macsherry said the board hopes to sever its relationship with Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, Albany, because its former attorney with the law firm, Todd M. Mathes, tried to “manipulate” the town engineer, who raised questions about a study on ambient sound levels conducted by Hessler Associates Inc., at the direction of former Planning Board Chairman Richard J. Edsall.

“The town’s engineer with Bernier, Carr, along with a number of community people, found great scientific issues with the Hessler report. And rather than trying to find middle ground, it appears Mr. Mathes, under the direction of the prior Planning Board chairman, worked not to find middle ground. So there’s an awful lot of distrust in the community in general about whether Mr. Mathes was really working on behalf of the community at large, or on behalf of a few individuals who had wind contracts and conflicts of interests,” Mr. Macsherry said.

The documented correspondence between Mr. Mathes, town engineers from Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, the Cape Vincent Planning Board and Cavanaugh Tocci Associates regarding the sound study by Hessler — a Virginia-based consulting firm hired by the developers of two proposed wind projects in the town — were made public last year and dubbed “soundgate” by opponents of wind development.

Although Mr. Mathes left Whiteman, Osterman last spring, Mr. Macsherry said, “there is enough concern over whether they will remain unbiased or be unbiased” and the Planning Board decided to ask the town board at its Jan. 19 meeting to hire Paul J. Curtin Jr., an attorney with Shulman Curtin & Grundner, Syracuse, as the Planning Board’s new attorney.

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