Kristi Pihl, April 18, 2014, Tri-City Herald
The efforts of the acting CEO of a troubled Pasco biofuels company to halt the company’s eviction from the Big Pasco Industrial Park have failed.
Franklin Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell this week approved the Port of Pasco’s request to evict Green Power.
Judith Calhoun, Green Power’s acting CEO, had asked for more time to relocate the company. She has said the company is being sold, with eventual plans to move the business to the Czech Republic.
And Green Power’s attempt to enter receivership also failed, when a King County Superior Court judge said he found “the application to be suspect.”
In Franklin County, Mitchell awarded the port $237,000 in damages which includes double rent from the last three months, utility costs, interest, late fees and attorney fees. That eats up most of the $300,000 deposit the port had from the company.
The eviction is the latest in a series of problems for Green Power, whose company’s founder and CEO, Michael Spitzauer, is in federal custody in Yakima awaiting trial on charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering connected to his business.
Bankruptcy records show Green Power claims it has $10 million in assets, including the partially built plant in Pasco, while 14 creditors claim the company owes them $30.5 million.
Calhoun tried to stall the eviction by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which put a hold on the eviction, but that case was dismissed a few weeks ago, in part because the company lacked an attorney.
The first business day after the dismissal, Calhoun filed a request in King County Superior Court trying to get an accountant, and then an attorney, appointed as a receiver. She said in court documents she had a responsibility to preserve the company’s assets for sale and also is a creditor of Green Power because of she is owed back wages.
A company can request a receiver to be appointed through a state process called an assignment for the benefit of creditors, which is similar to a state court bankruptcy, said Shelly Crocker, a Seattle consultant and an expert on receiverships.
If a receiver had been appointed, the company would have received another two months to prevent the eviction and Franklin County’s attempt to collect back personal property taxes.
Franklin County is in the process of finishing a $58,700 auction of some of the company’s equipment and tools to pay the tax bill.
Calhoun said in court documents that the eviction and auction puts the company’s assets “in serious danger of being lost or impaired” because it would jeopardize Green Power’s sale to a new owner.
But King County Superior Court Commissioner Carlos Velategui decided against the receivership protection, writing that Green Power would have to come up with a bond well over $1 million before he would consider appointing a receiver.
Green Power, however, has had difficulty even hiring an attorney. The company’s lawyer for the eviction also dropped out, and Calhoun represented the company in the receivership request and the bankruptcy filing.
Calhoun, Green Power’s vice president of finance, declined Friday to answer any Herald questions.
Calhoun said in court documents that the company was being sold for $100 million, in four installments to Atlantis Renewable Energy Systems. However, records show the company failed to pay the first $25 million, which was due last month and received an extension.
About $25 million of stock in Atlantis then would be sold to Natur Energy, a company in the Czech Republic, according to court documents. That agreement was signed only by Calhoun.
The Herald attempted to contact the representative for Natur Energy identified in the stock agreement this week, but the email address returned as a bad address.
A check of public records shows Calhoun recently filed to incorporate a company with the Atlantis name in Washington and has listed herself as the sole owner.
Calhoun previously confirmed that Atlantis is the company buying Green Power and that she’s one of Atlantis’ owners.