A developer who has been a primary business contact for the City of Industry as its seeks to create a large, urban solar power farm owes millions of dollars to creditors because of troubled past developments, government records show.
The proposed private-public energy project envisions a 444-megawatt solar array being built on ranch land near the borders of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. Despite the scale of the endeavor and involvement of millions in taxpayer funds, little is known about the company leading the efforts or the people who could benefit financially from the deal.
La Jolla-based developer William Barkett describes himself as an unpaid adviser with a “very limited” role in San Gabriel Valley Water and Power LLC, the private energy firm selected to develop the project on open land atop the Chino Hills.
City records and interviews show Barkett has been the city’s main point of contact on reimbursements and financial matters involving the company and project.
Industry officials referred questions about Barkett’s role to San Gabriel Valley Water and Power. A company representative said Barkett is an adviser, but declined to elaborate.
Barkett declined to be interviewed but said in an email he has a long history of domestic and international development experience and special knowledge of the property involved in the solar project.
Court records show Barkett has been pursued by debt collectors after $50 million in legal judgments naming him as an individual were lodged on previous ventures.
Howard Justus, president of Vindrauga Corp., an investment firm specializing in buying distressed loans, was appointed by a San Diego Court to collect millions owed to lenders by Barkett and his companies.
“We can’t find anything to go get that’s in his name,” Justus said.
Barkett wrote in an email he was involved in a number of projects when the Great Recession hit and the financial difficulties he encountered weren’t unusual for someone in the development business.
In a 2012 case, a judge awarded a judgment of $43.5 million against Barkett and his companies. According to appellate court records in the case, Barkett allegedly said during a debtor’s examination that he had transferred his home to a limited liability company owned by a friend in Kuwait and furniture and artwork to others.
Barkett denied making those statements in an email.
He also said some project loans were taken over by entities he had never dealt with before, while other lenders went into bankruptcy before they could come to an agreement, he said.
“Despite those difficulties, I worked hard to deal with the various claims that were made over the last nine or so years,” he said. “I chose to work through them rather than file bankruptcy. Unfortunately some of those claims ended up in lawsuits.”
He said he is continuing to work to resolve outstanding debts.
Justus said he is still struggling to get repayments tied to a 2005 real estate deal involving a housing project in the unincorporated community of Castaic, near Santa Clarita, proposed by one of numerous limited liability companies associated with Barkett.
The company defaulted on a loan, and 204 investors lost between $60,000 and $200,000 each, including some who lost their retirement savings, according to court records and interviews.
In a 2010 case, Barkett’s attorney argued his client did not have to pay back $1.4 million because the lender, based in Washington, wasn’t authorized to loan money in California.
Barkett hadn’t denied owing the debt, the appellate court’s opinion noted.
The courts ruled against Barkett.
6 August 2017 1:07 am
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