State Senator Mike Bohacek presented a legislative update to the County Commissioners on Monday and then at the end of his presentation brought up a subject he said he really didn’t want to talk about but felt like he had to. 

The senator said at the end of the legislative session he received a notice from the Public Access Counselor of a complaint against the Marshall County Plan Commission.  He said the complaint was for a closed-door meeting on January 25th where topics such as data centers, wind, solar and battery storage, and carbon capture were discussed in an executive session.  The senator said the meeting was done under employment issues.  (Executive Sessions can only be called for employment matters, litigation or acquisition or disposal of property.) 

Senator Bohacek said none of the topics discussed related to one of those three permitted subjects. He said, “It concerns me given the issues we’re having with solar and with battery storage and all the conversations that are happening throughout the county.”  He continued and said, “I’m shocked the attorney there allowed those conversations to happen.  I’m very disappointed in members of the board who initiated those conversations.  We have some experienced folks on that board and an experienced planner.  Y’all should know better.”   He warned the commissioner that this could result in potential legal action. 

Senator Bohacek asked the commissioners to do two things.  “One to take all actions and recommendations by that board, from the December 28 (2023) meeting, one meeting prior to the executive session that violated the law.  Go one meeting forward and take all actions of that board that they have done and nullify them.  Then, simultaneously pass a one year solar and battery storage moratorium and then move forward from that.”  The senator said he thought that “good faith” effort would show that the commissioners are acting on the best behalf of the citizens.

County Attorney Jim Clevenger asked the senator if he spoke to Attorney Derrick Jones the Plan Commission’s attorney, or any members of the Marshall County Plan Commission and the senator said he read the complaint and the responses, but he didn’t speak to anyone involved. 

Marshall County Commissioner Kevin Overmyer is a member of the County Plan Commission and said he didn’t remember their attorney attending the meeting.

Commissioner Stan Klotz said he’s had concerns of what’s been going on for a long period of time, fearing the county is open to litigation.  Commissioner Klotz then made a motion to nullify any actions of the County Plan Commission from December 28, 2023, going forward until April 1st and taking steps to place a yearlong moratorium on solar, battery, carbon capture and data systems until this issue is worked out. 

County Attorney Clevenger said, “I have a problem with it.”  He then asked Klotz, “You’re asking to nullify all the actions of the Plan Commission because they supposedly had a violation of the Open Door Policy of an executive session on an evaluation of the director?  I don’t know how you make the jump from that to all of their activities.  I know they were through a number of meetings.  They had public hearings. They had a lot of input.  I know there was opposition.  I know there was controversy, but I don’t know how you can take one meeting where they’re evaluating the director of the Plan Commission and now say we’re going to nullify everything that the Plan Commission has done since whenever it was. I think that is a very tough legal position to defend if it got to that point.” 

Commissioner Overmyer said when they do department head executive sessions each year, they are closed door and we evaluate them and then they talk about plans for the next year, maintenance issues, projects and whatever.  Overmyer said, “All three of us talk about that with our department heads so all three of us are in violation.”   

Commissioner Klotz stated that he had a motion on the table and with two asks, his motion was not seconded so it died for lack of a second. 

Commissioner Mike Burroughs said he didn’t understand how a 1-year moratorium would get the county anywhere different than where they are today.  He asked why not 3-months or 6-months and said, “I don’t know that a moratorium is going to get us anywhere different than we are today.”  He comments that the county already had a moratorium and when Stan Klotz was president of the Plan Commission, the commissioners, including Klotz passed the solar ordinance by a 3-0 vote.  Burroughs said the amendments to the ordinance are better than the original ordinance and goes beyond the state’s recommendations.  He said, “The people are against it and the people are for it, so it’s probably a good ordinance because nobody is happy.”