Defense spreads the blame for failed wind energy project
A defense attorney said there was plenty of blame to go around in the failed effort to bring wind energy to Jonestown. The mayor of Jonestown signed the application to secure a $2 million federal stimulus grant. Defendant Charles Malouff’s daughter was president of CM Energies, the contractor awarded the wind turbine project. And attorneys for both the city and company looked over the paperwork.
“But Mayor (Deane) Armstrong isn’t in jail. Dana (Malouff) McCoy isn’t in jail,” defense attorney Jackie Wood said Monday in Travis County District Court. “Charlie’s in jail.”
Charles Malouff, 55, is heading into the fourth week of his trial, accused of fraudulently obtaining the grant for the wind energy project. Wood spent the afternoon hammering away at the lead investigator in the case, Lori Carter of the Travis County public integrity unit, questioning why the investigation took such a narrow focus on Malouff.
Carter said she got the “impression Armstrong wasn’t knowledgeable” about the grant and “didn’t spend much time at her office and didn’t get involved.” Carter said Malouff’s daughter didn’t run the company, Charlie did.
Prosecutors say Malouff, who helped write the grant application and even had an office next to the mayor’s office, deceived everyone along the way, including his daughter, CM Energies employees and Jonestown officials. Witnesses have also testified that Malouff, a former police officer now serving time in federal prison on a separate weapons conviction, was guided in the application process by Mary Jo Woodall, then a grant administrator for the State Energy Conservation Office at the Texas Comptroller. According to testimony, the two were having a romantic relationship, which created a conflict of interest as Woodall helped Malouff apply for the grant, prosecutors say. Woodall faces the same charge at a trial that has not yet been set.
Carter spent at least an hour testifying about that relationship. She said Woodall’s work laptop, which was seized through a search warrant, contained a string of emails between the two. In one, Malouff asked if she’d prefer going to renewable energy training in Chicago or Istanbul, Turkey. He ended the email with a smiley face. “Both,” Woodall said in her reply. Carter read for the jury several text messages that were related to the turbine project but also contained amorous exchanges.
But as soon as Carter finished talking about the couple, Wood plopped the 300-page grant application for the wind energy project in front of her and asked the investigator to tell the jury of each “lie” contained in the document. “It’s going to take me a while,” Carter said. Judge Karen Sage recessed for 25 minutes to give her time to go through the application.
Carter gave several examples, including that Malouff described the turbines as “commercially ready.” Wood fired back until Carter admitted she was not a technical expert in the field. Carter noted that the grant called for “shovel ready” projects and not those in the research and development stage. “He didn’t have one turbine that worked. He was still in the research and development stage until we arrested him,” Carter said. Carter will continue testifying Tuesday, as will Robin Timmins, an accountant for the prosecution who has said Malouff used some of the grant money for personal expenses.