How it was sold to the Freeholders
In 2011, the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholder was composed of the following members: Freeholder Director Rich Zeoli, Deputy Director Sue Zellman, and Freeholder members Phil Crabb, Rich Vohden, and Parker Space. Vohden and Space were new to the Board. On November 14, 2011, the Freeholder Board voted unanimously to take the solar deal offered by SunLight General. How did it happen?
Watchdog has uncovered the document used to sell the deal to the Freeholders, but first, let's look at the committee that was formed to sell the solar scheme. It was called the Sussex County Evaluation Team and it was composed of the following people/organizations:
- John Eskilson Sussex County Administrator
- Dennis McConnell, Sussex County Attorney
- Bernard Re, Sussex County Treasurer
- Steve Pearlman, a lawyer with Inglesino, Pearlman, Wyciskala & Taylor
- Deb Verderame, a lawyer with Inglesino, Pearlman, Wyciskala & Taylor
- Gerry Genna, Birdsall Services Group
- Tom Brys, Birdsall Services Group
- Douglas Bacher, NW Financial Group
- Heather Litzebauer, NW Financial Group
- Steven Gabel, Gabel Associates
- Richard Preiss, Gabel Associates
- Cadence Bowden, Gabel Associates
This is the committee that recommended to the Freeholder Board that they agree to the solar scheme. These are the promises they made to the Board:
"The SunLight/MasTec team possesses high quality management, installation capabilities, and sound solar development experience. In addition, the SunLight/MasTec proposal provides Sussex benefits in the following key areas:
- It provides substantial direct energy cost savings;
- It provides the Local Units the potential for additional savings through the sharing of revenues from the sale of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) and other environmental benefits;
- Due to SunLight/MasTec's proposed capital investment, which reduces the required size of the Authority bonds, it provides a strong level of protection for Sussex from financial risk;
- It provided additional financial protection for Sussex in the form of a debt service reserve fund; and,
- It includes a restoration security providing for additional Local Unit protection at the end of contract."
The entire process was open to public bid, but only one bidder showed up. Another showed up late and was disqualified. Some wanted to redo the bid, but that suggestion was brushed aside. Only one bidder?