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PUC, prime mover of smart grid clash over social-media posts

PUC has run up close to $100,000 in anticipated legal bills trying to silence Glen Martin's Twitter posts and other matters
Glen Martin
Glen Martin - 2017 file photo

PUC Distribution Inc. has racked up close to $100,000 in estimated legal bills as it, among other things, tried to stop the chief architect/proponent of its smart grid project from tweeting that the landmark initiative is "corrupt"

"The people who got hurt were hard working taxpayers and the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie," Glen Martin posted in a since-deleted Twitter post made on May 19, according to court documents filed by PUC.

PUC records filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice also show Martin tweeting the following day: "There's corruption in the PUC and the Sault Ste. Marie taxpayers need to know about it."

Court files reviewed by SooToday show Martin's tweets drew a swift response from local officials:

Mayor Christian Provenzano noticed the May 19 post and sent a screenshot to Rob Brewer, president and chief executive officer of the city-owned utility.

PUC Distribution immediately issued a cease-and-desist notice to Martin, claiming the tweets were defamatory and violated an asset purchase agreement he signed with PUC in January, 2020.

That agreement prohibited Martin from disclosing confidential information or issuing any public statement or press release about his PUC transaction.

Infrastructure Energy Inc., a Sault-based, Martin-directed corporation, was to have received a payment of $511,847 (less PUC costs) after the smart grid was approved by the Ontario Energy Board on Apr. 29, 2020.

But the payment was complicated by divorce proceedings involving Martin and his wife, Claudia Plasencia.

The disposition of those funds and other issues are the subject of Ontario Superior Court litigation, with an appearance scheduled for Thursday.

Among other things, PUC is seeking:

  • an order directing PUC to withhold the $511,847 payment from Infrastructure Energy Inc., paying the funds instead into the court, to the credit of Claudia Plasencia's divorce proceedings
  • a declaration that Glen Martin and his companies have breached the 2020 asset purchase agreement
  • an order declaring that Martin and his companies are forever barred from making further claims against PUC regarding the $511,847 payment

Martin, who is representing himself, is arguing that paying the court instead of Infrastructure would constitute a misappropration of funds.

PUC court filings show as much as $108,032 in anticipated legal costs responding to the two Martin tweets and other matters related to Martin.

Martin, a former aerospace engineer who spearheaded a successful local solar farm project, was the initial driving force behind the PUC smart grid project.

Natural Resources Canada agreed to contribute as much as $10.6 million to the PUC smart grid initiative.

Infrastructure Energy Inc. was dissolved on June 25 of this year.

None of the allegations in the court documents on which this article is based have been proven in a court of law.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct information about PUC Inc.'s estimated legal costs in this matter