Solar Panel Investigation-Winona County



Hoping to keep the taxpayer cost down, the Winona County Board of Commissioners has decided to limit a Twin Cities law firm's look into a solar panel project to investigating two county employees involvement, and not investigate any potential lawsuit against the county.
                 
The board approved that action on a unanimous vote after learning the law firm's lead attorney will charge $295 an hour.
                  
Commissioner Wayne Valentine said the county should proceed with the outside investigation that lead to two employees being placed on administrative leave with pay.

Cliff Kaehler, with Novel Energy Solutions of St. Charles, the firm that may file a potential lawsuit against the county in connection with a proposed solar panel project, challenged the hiring of theTwin Cities law firm calling for an investigation into possible conflicts of interest with county attorney Karin Sonneman who recommended the firm.
                
Sonneman said she has had no prior contact with the law firm and has stepped away from involvement with the issue altogether.

The board decided not to address any pending lawsuit yet because no suit has been filed. Any suit would go to the county insurance carrier first, the Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust.

Assistant County Attorney Susan Cooper told the board the personnel investigation could start this week and is expected to take four to six weeks.

Meanwhile, County Administrator Duane Hebert and County Sustainability Coordinator Anne Morse remain on leave with pay.
 

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