Update (5:08 p.m.): Authorities visited Tweedy this afternoon and have subpoenaed the audio recordings, Tweedy confirms.
When Hughie Tweedy announced Monday that he had recorded evidence of a pipeline agent offering him prostitutes in exchange for land access, he says it felt as though a great weight had been lifted.
“I don’t know if it’ll do me any good, I don’t know if it’ll do me any bad, but I’m glad I did it,” said Tweedy when reached by phone later that evening.
The landowner from Lee County, Iowa made the announcement on the steps of the Iowa State Capitol Monday morning with his family and state senator present. There, he told reporters that a representative on behalf of Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, had offered him prostitutes in exchange for access to his land in anticipation of the Bakken pipeline — a proposed crude oil project that would cut across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
The project first came to light in the fall of 2014, and Tweedy says he’s been dealing with agents representing Dakota Access ever since. Construction of the pipeline, which would span about 1,134 miles, requires access to private land. And though Dakota Access has offered full compensation for any costs or damages incurred, some landowners in the pipeline’s path — including Tweedy — want nothing to do with it.
Tweedy says growing pressure and intimidation on behalf of agents representing Dakota Access, as well as fears that the Iowa Utility Boards might forcibly grant access to his property through eminent domain, led him to go public on Monday. He says that he has had the recording since the winter of 2014, but he and his family have been hesitant to release the audio for fear of legal retaliation — the sort that comes from a large energy corporation with presumably expensive lawyers.
The landowner said Monday that though his family would like to release the audio publicly, they’ve been advised against doing so by their attorney. To willfully distribute potential evidence could put Tweedy in a compromising position should he face litigation, he says. Rather than releasing the audio at will, it’s his hope that the Iowa Attorney General will investigate the matter and subpoena the recordings. The family’s attorney says this will provide them with an added level of protection if sued by the pipeline company.
“I’m just trying to protect myself from a lawsuit from a corporation who has unlimited funds, and could break me financially,” Tweedy said.
He hopes the Iowa Attorney General will investigate the matter immediately, and says he’ll gladly supply the recordings should they be subpoenaed.
“The sooner, the better,” he added.
Leading up to Monday’s announcement, Tweedy says harassment on behalf of agents representing Dakota Access had gotten out of hand. He claims that intimidation tactics used by the energy company’s representatives, such as telling authorities that his property had been booby trapped, led to multiple visits from Lee County Sheriff’s deputies.
During one encounter, when Tweedy asked the Dakota Access agent to explain where the booby trap claims were coming from, he says the agent replied that it was “just a rumor.” Tweedy was at home with his grandson at the time, and the agent had arrived with two sheriff’s deputies. He says the deputies stood at his door while he spoke with the pipeline agent, who stood some distance behind.
“What really broke my heart was that my grandson was there, and it scared him,” Tweedy said. “It was just a sad day, honestly, and disturbing.”
A few days later, Tweedy noticed a sheriff’s deputy car parked outside his property and, upon approaching the vehicle, learned that the deputy was on “stand-by” while Dakota Access agents surveyed his property.
“That was the straw that broke this camel’s back,” said Hughie’s son, Luke Tweedy, when reached by phone Monday evening. “They were starting to frazzle my dad. It was really starting to bother him. Obviously it’s intimidations. Obviously they’re trying to say, ‘Hey, the government works for us, not for you.’”
“You can only get pushed so many times before you take a swing at the guy pushing you,” Luke said, referencing his father’s decision to speak out on Monday.
When reached via email, Lee County Sheriff Jim Sholl wrote that his office has not sent deputies to Tweedy’s property due to safety issues of booby traps, nor has his office received calls on the matter.
Sholl is aware of the booby trap allegations, however, and says he learned of these rumors “through a representative of Dakota Access.”
Sholl says his office did receive a request from Dakota Access for deputies to accompany a survey crew, which the office obliged. His deputies provide a peacekeeping role in situations where one entity wants to access another person’s property. Once deputies determine there is no aggression between the two parties, they leave, according to Sholl.
“Yes, deputies were present for a short time with the survey crew, providing a service that we extend to others in our county,” Sholl wrote.
When asked why Dakota Access might be passing along unsubstantiated booby trap allegations to the Lee County Sherrifs office, as acknowledged by Sholl, Energy Transfer media rep Vicki Granado wrote the following in an email to Little Village:
Regarding calls to the Lee County Sheriff — it is not uncommon for local officials to be asked to accompany survey crews onto a landowner’s property if they feel their safety is at risk.
The representative did not respond to questions over whether Energy Transfer views Tweedy as a dangerous person, or if the company is attempting to create that perception.
In response to Tweedy’s prostitution allegations, Granado provided Energy Transfer’s official statement from Monday:
We are aware of allegations that have been made concerning the conduct of an employee of one of our contractors. We take these types of matters very seriously and are investigating further.
The notion of an agent, acting on behalf of an energy company, offering prostitutes to a rural Iowan in exchange for land access is outlandish, Tweedy admits. He says it’s for this same reason, after a series of heavy-handed hints from the agent, that he decided to get a voice recorder.
By this point — the winter of 2014 — Tweedy says it was clear the agent viewed him as a rather crass, and perhaps even foolish person. Rather than take offense, however, Tweedy decided to play into this role as a means of disarming the agent and alleviating suspicion.
For assistance, Tweedy reached out to his son Luke, who owns and operates Iowa City’s Flat Black Studios. The two purchased a voice recorder in Iowa City, and after receiving a tutorial from his son, Tweedy contacted the agent with an offer to discuss the land dispute at a local bar — Papa’s Bar & Grill in Lee County.
While at the bar, the two discussed the pipeline project, and Tweedy says the conversation eventually turns toward some of the agent’s thinly veiled references to prostitute solicitation in exchange for granting land access. With the recorder on, Tweedy presses the alleged agent on the matter, asking him to clarify what he ‘really’ meant earlier.
Little Village has listened to this recording.
After some guarded discussion, what follows is a series of explicit offers on behalf of the purported agent — three in total — to visit St. Louis with Tweedy and buy him sex. The purported agent talks about how much it’d cost, how the process might work (the two would visit a casino and, from there, contact an escort service), and brags about the quality of the prostitutes. At one point in the recording, he chuckles about how he doesn’t want to get arrested, and seeks repeated assurance from Tweedy that such a deal would indeed resolve the land access dispute.
“All I ever wanted to do was just live in peace,” Tweedy said, lamenting the events that culminated with his announcement Monday on the steps of the state capitol.
A self-described libertarian who lives a minimalist lifestyle, Tweedy considers himself a simple steward of his land, which he inherited after his father passed away in 1979. He has since planted thousands of trees throughout the property, which includes several ponds, streams and an antiquated barn built in 1866.
At the very least, given Monday’s news conference, and open calls for an investigation, Tweedy says he’ll no longer have to interact with Dakota Access representatives — at least, not face-to-face.
“Our talking is done,” he said. “It’ll be attorneys now.”