PASCO — Port of Pasco commissioners on Tuesday were skeptical of a claim by Green Power owner Michael Spitzauer that "things are different this time."
The commissioners called a special meeting to hear a proposal from Spitzauer, whose company was evicted in September from property it leased at the port, to cut a new deal for a six-month, prepaid lease.
Spitzauer offered to prepay the entire six months, with the rent for the entire following six-month period due a month before the lease expires so that it isn't possible for him to fall behind again, he said.
But commissioners said they want more proof that his company is financially viable before they give him one last chance at leasing space at the port, and at possibly tarnishing commissioners' reputations for making sound business decisions.
"We're talking about more than dollars and cents here," said Commissioner Jim Klindworth. "We're talking about reputation. We've got 30 to 40,000 taxpayers wondering what the hell's going on down here."
Commissioners voted Dec. 2 to cut ties with Green Power and refused a $90,000 check from Spitzauer when it was handed in two days after the deadline -- punctuating a series of missed deadlines, late payments and bad checks from the company.
Spitzauer then made the offer to prepay six months of rent, but was told commissioners couldn't consider his latest offer until this month.
And Green Power's financial issues with the Port of Pasco aren't the only ones plaguing the company, which claims to have developed the technology to turn municipal waste into fuel.
Spitzauer and his company face more than $18 million in lawsuits in Benton, Franklin and King counties, and has had numerous complaints to the state Department of Labor and Industries for failure to pay employees or paying them with bad checks. Court records show outstanding tax warrants for money the company owes in unemployment taxes and industrial insurance for employees.
The Department of Ecology ordered the plant to shut down Aug. 5 because it did not have a required permit for a synthetic fuel reactor the state said could emit "harmful toxic air pollution."
He still owes the state a $24,000 fine.
He has a history of other legal troubles dating back to the early 1990s, when he served three years of a six-year sentence in Austria for fraud. Spitzauer told the Herald in 2009 that he didn't believe criminal troubles two decades ago should be held against him now.
"I don't think I'm a bad character," he said at the time.
Spitzauer told commissioners Tuesday that he's on the cusp of resolving most of his current problems as he's started to collect payments on $2 billion in orders to build the fuel conversion plants -- including $350 million for 10 plants -- he needs to get his Pasco facility off the ground.
"Green Power wants to stay at the port," Spitzauer said. "We want to build the facility here. We want to create the jobs here."
He brought to the meeting his attorney Dan DeLue of Seattle; and men introduced as Antoine Georges Abousarah, CEO of Green Power Europe, and Jose Miguel Soto, an attorney from Spain whom Spitzauer said helped negotiated a contract between Spain and Green Power.
Soto told commissioners through a translator that land is under 25-year contracts in Spain to build Green Power plants, and that permits have been granted by the Spanish government.
Internet searches for Abousarah and Soto turned up no information, but newspaper La Voz de Galicia reported in November that one of the plants was under consideration in Spain's Galicia region.
After talking in private during Tuesday's meeting, commissioners asked for more information about Green Power's agreement with the Spanish government to show the company is turning around.
Jim Toomey, the port's executive director, said commissioners likely will discuss Spitzauer's offer again in late January.