Solar Farm - Escanaba Township, MI

Asked May 6, 2020, 10:23 AM EDT

A Solar Co. is trying to persuade our township officials.
Originally offered $10,000,000. After much opposition from the public for
about 9 months or so,they raised it to $13,000,000.
Won't this be considered a bribe directly or indirectly even though it was done publicly?
Also, the planning commission claims they don't even know if they have any bylaws when asked
publicly. If this is the case, no one has signed or dated any bylaws.
Can these be provided to the public to view?
Isn't this in violation if they don't in Michigan?
I see you answered another question on this subject here.
Smart response there.
Thank you.


Delta County Michigan

4 Responses

Hello,

I do not know any details concerning the dollar amounts you mention. Certainly, local appointed or elected officials cannot personally accept any form of gift, graft, or bribe. This would result in a conflict of interest in decision making, a violation of any adopted ethical code, and a loss of public trust, not to mention violation of applicable state law. Might this be a donation by the developer to the township (i.e. the community as a whole)? So long as a donation or a concession is in no way tied to the decision to support or deny the request, no one individual is benefiting from such a public gift or development concession, and it is in no way coerced out of the developer by the township board, I do not believe a donation to the community would be technically illegal, though appearance of impropriety is something different.

To your next question, yes, all Michigan planning commissions are required to have bylaws according to the Michigan Planning Enabling Act (MCL 125.3819). Failure to follow the statute when conducting business could result in that business (i.e. decision) being found to be null/void and the planning commission in violation of due process by a judge. However, this would require someone or some entity to challenge the decision in Circuit Court – there is no county or state oversight of planning and zoning. Yes, planning commission bylaws are a public document that should be made readily available, or at least minimally accessible through a Freedom of Information Act request.

To be clear, I am not an attorney and none of this should be taken as legal advice.

It's true, the money will go to the community but when they increased it much more,
it appears it's being done in their favor to push it through & hurt the people of the township.
There is a conflict of interest by 2 people on the commission too.
It certainly is tied to the decision to support or deny the request,
Don't you agree?
As far as the bylaws, is each member supposed to sign & date it?
I appreciate the quick response.
Very helpful information, Brad.


Hello,

I cannot comment on the legitimacy of the donation. I can say this is an approach being used by more energy development companies and is similar to approaches used by mining companies worldwide for years. Certainly, if individuals have direct conflicts of interest and they are continuing to participate in deliberations and decisions, they are doing so with heightened legal risk for themselves and the township.

Bylaws are adopted by the planning commission as a whole, meaning there is a motion to adopt, a second, discussion, and an affirmative vote. With the adoption of the bylaws by the planning commission, all members are bound to the rules therein regardless of any individual vote in opposition. Again, bylaws are not typically signed by individual members, though there may be an 'oath of office' style form that is signed by new members attesting that each will follow applicable board rules, ethics codes, etc. of the township.

Excellent info, Brad, thanks again!