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Municipal power dead — Monroe has to go, says Howrey lawyer

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BRASHER FALLS — The plan designed to bring municipal power to the north country will continue to falter as long as James I. Monroe is spearheading the effort, according to one Howrey LLP attorney.

Kenneth C. Anderson, a lawyer with the Washington, D.C., legal firm who has worked for more than a decade on a project that was designed to lower energy costs in 24 towns and villages across the region, said Monday the project was “dead in the water” and will remain so as long as Mr. Monroe is chairman of the North Country Power Authority.

It is Mr. Monroe’s ego, he said, that is driving the project into the ground.

“Never in all my career have I met anyone as impossible to deal with as this guy,” Mr. Anderson said. “This thing simply cannot go forward with him running it. The success of this project is really contingent on getting a new chairman.”

Mr. Anderson is not the first person to publicly call for the removal of Mr. Monroe as chairman. Earlier this year, the authority’s board members wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo asking that Mr. Monroe be ousted from his post for what they call illegal meetings and leaks of confidential information to the press.

NCPA board member Frederick S. Morrill said it was Mr. Monroe’s lack of communication that finally drove him and two other members to write the letter demanding the governor appoint a new chairman. More than once, he said, Mr. Monroe made decisions on his own, leaving board members in the dark.

“He has operated without board approval a number of times,” Mr. Morrill said. “We need a fresh start.”

Mr. Anderson said the board’s letter to the governor was just one example of the displeasure with Mr. Monroe by those involved in the project.

“Nobody wants to work with him,” Mr. Anderson said. “He has a terrible temper and if you disagree with him, he just goes into a shell and refuses to do anything.”

It is the insistence of the chairman on handling all aspects of the project that has created tension within the board and among the lawyers, he said.

“He really does want this thing to be successful but he is utterly convinced that only he knows how to do it,” Mr. Anderson said. “He thinks he doesn’t need lawyers or engineers because he’ll do it all.”

The authority’s chairman called the idea “absurd,” and in fact, he said, it has been just the opposite. Early this spring, Mr. Monroe said, he hired an Albany attorney to get an “unbiased” opinion in the matter and paid the $225 per hour legal fees out of his own pocket.

“I’m not going to be led by the nose by Howrey attorneys,” he said. “I am going to find out the facts for myself, not rely on secondhand facts or no facts.”

Negotiations between Howrey and the authority came to a halt after Mr. Monroe expressed his reservations about the proposed $15.5 million contract and refused to sign a deal with the firm.

Since then, Mr. Monroe has been on the end of a number of complaints and calls for him to be removed from a position of leadership.

But despite the outcry from lawyers and his own board members, Mr. Monroe said he has no intentions of leaving his post.

“I got all these guys against me, it’s a challenge,” he said. “But I know what’s right and I know what’s wrong. If I should leave, the NCPA will really not be as vibrant and as profitable as I intend to make it.”

But until Gov. Cuomo makes at least one additional appointment the board will continue to sit idly by, left with too few members to make any decisions. Mr. Anderson said he has no problem with Mr. Monroe remaining on the board, as long as he isn’t in charge.

The authority needs someone, he said, who can better work with people and help propel the project in the right direction.

“Sadly, the NCPA has accomplished absolutely nothing in its brief life,” he said. “It never really got started because it was hijacked by this guy with his egomania.”

Mr. Anderson warned that the authority may have difficulty finding funding for what he called a “first-rate project.” Investors who were once excited about the idea of funding the plan are slowly backing away because of their hesitancy to work with Mr. Monroe, he said.

“If he ever appreciates the damage he has done to his own cause it will be a very sobering moment,” Mr. Anderson said.

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