Friday Mar 27 2009
Supervisor sacks vocal appointee
By: Gus Thomson, Gold Country News Service
Ex-board member Warren Burns questions Weygandt's timing, motive
Placer County Supervisor Robert Weygandt has sacked his Assessment Appeals Board appointee, two days after Warren Burns, of Loomis, spoke out at the panel’s meeting about a contentious solar power assessment. Burns, who had served on the appeals board since January 2005, said the move to remove him from the board before its next meeting in April came as a shock. Weygandt said Thursday that there is no connection between the events of last week’s appeals board meeting and his decision to not continue with Burns. At the meeting, Burns questioned Placer County Assessor Kristen Spears on her department’s stalled review of the taxability of a $1-a-year ground lease for a solar development on county-owned land in North Auburn. The lease was with Roseville’s Solar Power Inc., which built the project. Solar Power sold the facility and transferred the lease to Solar Power Partners, another California corporation. The agreement with the county is being questioned by some as a sweetheart deal. Some allege that Supervisor Kirk Uhler and Weygandt have financial ties to Solar Power Inc. that may conflict with county interests. Burns spoke during a March 16 hearing on the status of a review by the assessor, which is now not expected to be completed until July or August. He said he believes he was dropped from the board because he became “a danger.” “Maybe they sense me as a no-nonsense guy,” Burns said. “If there’s a shady deal, then I’ll shake the tree.” But Weygandt said he had been told by staff that Burns’ term was up and he decided to bring in someone else. “His term had expired for quite some time – I think it’s four years,” Weygandt said. “Staff told me Warren Burns expressed to them that he might want to retire.” Weygandt, who represents the Lincoln area, said he considers the issues being raised about Solar Power Inc.’s relationship with the county based on politics, not fact. Supervisor Kirk Uhler, an employee of Solar Power, is getting unwarranted questioning because of opposition in Granite Bay over a county community plan update, he said. Weygandt said he’s feeling similar pressures on the issue that he believes are coming from political opponents in the Republican Central Committee. “Kirk has people who disagree with him and there are people who don’t like me,” Weygandt said. Weygandt’s family ties to Solar Power Inc. have been documented by Chris Beckman, an Auburn resident who has also requested the review by the Assessor’s Office of the ground lease. Beckman delved into prospectuses filed with the federal Securities Exchange Commission by Solar Power that indicated Weygandt’s brother and sister-in-law, William Weygandt and Kathleen Weygandt, held 40,000 shares of Solar Power common stock in April last year and warrants to purchase 12,000 more. A September 2007 prospectus listed William Weygandt as the holder of 100,000 shares of Solar Power Inc. stock. A recent posting by Beckman on the Journal Web site elicited a reply from William Weygandt. Beckman’s comments “reveal a disgusting attempt to attack my brother’s integrity by misrepresenting his financial interests and his vote regarding Placer County’s contract with Solar Power Inc.,” William Weygandt stated. “My wife and I alone own stock in this company. Neither Robert nor any of his business interests have any financial interest whatsoever in the company and will not benefit in any way from Solar Power’s activities.” Supervisor Weygandt said that because he has no financial interest in Solar Power Inc., he was able to vote on the company’s contract with the county. He does appear to have a family trust with his brother, however, and William Weygandt clearly has a significant financial interest in Solar Power Inc. Uhler left the room during a vote by the Board of Supervisors on Solar Power Inc. contract, citing a potential conflict. That occurred in September 2007, when board members voted to revise the county contract with Solar Power Inc. Uhler was not a supervisor when the initial contract was approved a year earlier while Weygandt was part of a unanimous vote to go forward.. Weygandt added Thursday that his brother’s son-in-law is an executive with Solar Power Inc. Weygandt, who has served on the board for 14 years, said that he’s taking the criticism in stride knowing he has no financial interest in Solar Power Inc. “I coming at all of that from the perspective that there is no issue,” Weygandt said. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.