Oregon Department of Justice investigating university solar tax credits

An Oregonian report prompts investigation into alleged fraud.

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The Oregon Department of Justice is conducting criminal and civil investigations into $11.8 million of state tax credits awarded to Oregon State University and Oregon Institute of Technology for solar panels.

The Oregonian says its report on the schools missing deadlines and submitting fraudulent documents prompted the investigations, OregonLive.com reports.

Two of the six solar arrays were completed in early 2013, and another four in early 2014. None was finished by the initial Jan 1, 2013 deadline for completing construction. The developers still won the tax credits after a consultant for the Oregon University System submitted two documents to the Energy Department that showed construction had started prior to April 15, 2011. That would give developers an extra 18 months to finish.

One of the documents was an invoice from a subcontractor showing purported construction expenses in early 2011. The Oregonian/OregonLive found no record the company existed. The business address and contractors license number listed on the receipt were fictitious. The second document was a letter from Ryan Davies, the chief executive of the Utah-based company hired to build the arrays, Renewable Energy Development Corp., to the OUS vice chancellor in charge of the projects, Robert Simonton. The letter made a series of statements about construction and permitting activities that would show the project qualified for an extended construction deadline.

Davies admitted that construction did not begin until after the deadline, OregonLive.com reports.

Energy Department spokeswoman Rachel Wray was quoted as saying the department “intends to cooperate fully.”

RELATED NEWS: Gov. Brown encourages investigation into use of energy tax credits.