These solar rogues targeted Sussex County. They came up with a plan. Here is how journalist Nathan Mayberg from the Advertiser News/Sparta Independent described what happened:
The county issued $27.7 million of debt in order for New York City-based SunLight General Capital in 2011 to install solar panels on municipal buildings and schools throughout the county. The deal was part of a larger project supported by two other counties: Morris and Somerset. The total cost for the three counties was estimated at nearly $90 million after the firm was the lone bidder on the project.
The plan was for the counties to act as a bank and loan the money to the New York City company to invest in the infrastructure.
There was only one problem with the plan: the county didn't have a fallback option if somehow the company went insolvent and couldn't pay back the money.
That is what has now happened, Sussex County Administrator John Eskilson said.
Eskilson was county administrator when the Sussex County Board of Freeholders voted unanimously to approve the $27.7 million bonding. SunLight General only paid back $2.7 million of that.
Now the county has to pay back the $24 million part of the deal which SunLight General Capital never paid back and now can't.
SunLight General Capital has been in ongoing litigation with PowerPartners MasTec, the construction firm hired to install the solar panels on the buildings.
The contractor sued to hold the solar power investment company accountable for tens of millions of dollars it said was owed to them. SunLight General Capital has tens of millions of dollars in liens against the company.
Eskilson said the firm is "insolvent but not bankrupt."
Still, Eskilson said the company will not be able to pay the county any more money. They haven't paid the county any money since 2013.
The county has to make $2.7 million bond payments each year out of a budget of $100 million. The county had been counting on SunLight to make those payments but will now have to find other sources.
Now Sussex County taxpayers are being asked to bail out SunLight General in a plan that absolves the corporation of all responsibility, protects their business reputation, and prevents Sussex County from ever recouping its losses on behalf of taxpayers. It totally let's them off the hook.