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BREAKING NEWS

Weerts not re-elected to Corn Plus board

By Staff | Feb 18, 2008

One of the original founders of Corn Plus in Winnebago has found that being involved in the ethanol industry can be tough at times.

In addition to legal woes, Winnebago businessman Bob Weerts recently lost his re-election bid to the ethanol plant’s nine-member board of directors.

“The legal case was brought up at the annual meeting and was a hot topic. It got out of hand. I don’t think it was handled right,” says a shareholder of the cooperative who did not want to be identified.

“It’s common knowledge Bob wasn’t re-elected. Without Bob there would be no Corn Plus. I’m a Bob Weerts supporter.”

The company’s monthly newsletter in December encouraged anyone interested in serving on the board to contact Bill Carr, Darwin Olson or Craig Weir — members of the nominating committee.

Weir says six people — including Weerts — filed for three three-year term director seats up for election at the company’s annual meeting held Jan. 23 in Blue Earth.

Any shareholder attending the meeting, says Weir, was given a chance to vote for the directors. He estimates 200 of the cooperative’s 750 shareholders were in attendance.

In the courtroom, Weerts faces a legal fight.

Attorneys for Corn Plus Cooperative have filed a motion in Faribault County District Court to seek damages for a storm water pond built by Weerts Construction in 2004.

According to a court complaint, the cooperative paid the Winnebago company $100,000 to build a pond that would meet Minnesota Pollution Control Agency approval.

Weerts Construction, says the complaint, did not follow specifications prepared by Environmental Resource Group (ERG) for Corn Plus. The plans also were approved by the MPCA, the complaint says.

In a court hearing Feb. 5, Corn Plus attorney William Skolnick asked Faribault County Judge Douglas Richards that his client be allowed to pursue a lawsuit against Weerts Construction for failing to meet conditions of a contract between the two parties.

Attorneys for Corn Plus filed a default for judgment after Weerts Construction failed to answer a formal complaint.

William Partridge — who is representing Weerts — says his client did not have to answer the complaint because of language contained in the contract.

Partridge says due to an arbitration clause in the agreement, the court does not have the authority to intervene. He says disputes must be resolved by the parties involved.

Corn Plus hasn’t determined a monetary amount it has suffered in damages, other than it is in excess of $50,000. The ethanol producer says in court documents that it needed to spend $300,000 to construct a storm water pond, “so it could continue with its business.”

Richards took the case under advisement and has 90 days to issue a ruling.