Another day, another blow to the goal of creating a municipal electric grid for 24 north country towns and villages.
Three of the remaining members of the North Country Power Authority wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday seeking the removal of the authority's chairman, James I. Monroe, over alleged leaks to the press and open-meetings law violations.
Mr. Monroe counters those charges by saying his opponents are violating their duty to the north country by not fully vetting a contract, that his discussion with the press was legitimate and that it was his opponents, not he, who conducted meetings out of the public view.
"I just hope we haven't cut off the head of the golden goose," said Frederick S. Morrill, a board member who signed the letter. "It was an opportunity and I hope we still have it."
Representatives for Mr. Cuomo, who controls appointments to the board, did not return a call for comment.
The issue stems from contract negotiations with Howrey, a large law firm that wanted to help the North Country Power Authority navigate the legal hoops of acquiring $100 million in financing that the project — setting up a government-run electrical grid — would require.
Officials, other than Mr. Monroe, were content with Howrey's assurances that it could still pull off the deal, even though the law firm was dissolving.
"I think he thinks we could find a better arrangement someplace else," said Marie C. Regan, a board member who also signed the letter. "We don't agree, and the Alliance for Municipal Power commissioners have stated they want to go forward with Howrey. We feel that's our best choice, so we just have a difference."
Cindy Gale, the third board member to sign the letter, did not respond to calls for comment.
The Alliance for Municipal Power represents the 24 villages and towns in St. Lawrence and Franklin county that would be served by the electric utility. For more than a decade, AMP sought state approval to create a public authority that could carry out the project, because it could not.
It finally received the authority last year when then-Gov. David A. Paterson signed enabling legislation into law. The authority began convening in January, but only five members were appointed to the nine-member board.
That meant that anything it did — even mundane tasks such as drafting bylaws — required unanimous approval. It could muster the unanimity to carry out only a few perfunctory tasks.
And when Mr. Monroe was accused of leaking negotiation documents for the Howrey contract to a law publication, the situation became so untenable that one of the board members stepped down. That ground action to a halt, because the board could do nothing with only four members.
In the letter to Mr. Cuomo, the three board members accuse Mr. Monroe of "negative and divisive leadership which has frozen any type of future success for the authority."
AMP officials have said they will not provide the power authority with any more funds to continue operating.
Mr. Monroe said that AMP officials and other power authority board members were not holding true to their duty to fully think out the Howrey contract.
"I'm not totally surprised," he said of the board members' letter, adding that he was not going to step down.