Today was essentially a do-over for Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) in court. After being denied summary judgment for their counterclaims, VVWD legal counsel demanded further expansion of discovery that would have allowed them access to all tax records and other financial documents for Wolf Creek Golf Club and anyone who may potentially be tied to the lawsuit in any way.
Judge Timothy Williams ultimately granted one request for discovery, but otherwise made clear that the court will only allow so much to be discovered.
“The bottom line is: Are they going to make the argument at trial?”
– Judge Timothy Williams
The last time the Wolf Creek case was argued in open court on May 29, Judge Williams essentially chided both sides for making motions demanding final rulings before the case goes to trial. Yet in the following weeks, VVWD filed a new motion to compel more financial information from Wolf Creek.
According to VVWD attorney Clifford Grevett, “[Wolf Creek officials claim] if rates go up, they will go brown. Down and brown, they claim.” Grevett later postulated, “We think they have revenue of over $6 million, but we don’t know. They won’t tell us.”
Judge Williams asked, “The bottom line is: Are they going to make the argument at trial?” Wolf Creek attorney Matthew Neal later responded, “Paradise Canyon [Wolf Creek] is not making such an allegation in court.” He then cited Wolf Creek owner Cory Clemetson’s deposition, where he declared Wolf Creek’s attorneys have no plan to argue financial hardship in court.
“It is not carte blanche. […] This does not authorize you to go on a fishing expedition.”
– Judge Timothy Williams
On discovery, Judge Williams clarified, “It is not carte blanche.” He later added, “This does not authorize you to go on a fishing expedition.”
Wolf Creek claims its attorneys have already turned over documentation requested by VVWD attorneys on witnesses receiving benefits from Wolf Creek, such as free golf play and free meals. VVWD specifically demanded documents on any relationship between Wolf Creek and Sandra Ramaker and “Bubba” Smith, two former VVWD Trustees who continue to insist the water lease program they voted to launch in 2011 was never intended for VVWD to charge higher rates tethered to a theoretical higher price that the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) is willing to pay in order to use Virgin River water to fulfill its Intentionally Created Surplus (ICS) requirements with the six other Colorado River Basin states.
In a prior release of discovery findings that was exclusively reported by Nevada Today in April, SNWA officials told VVWD officials that VVWD’s leftover water that had previously been allocated to the golf courses could not legally be used for the Colorado River ICS program. They also requested a revised agreement with VVWD so SNWA can directly take Virgin River water that can be better accounted for. But during today’s hearing, neither side mentioned VVWD’s attempt to secure an ICS lease agreement with SNWA.
So how did the judge rule, and where is the case going from here?
According to Wolf Creek attorney Matthew Neal, “In regard to the free golf documents, there’s nothing more than what we’ve already provided.” Nevertheless, Judge Williams granted VVWD’s motion to compel Wolf Creek to provide any additional information regarding incentives and benefits the golf course has provided to witnesses and their immediate relatives. But if Wolf Creek actually has provided everything previously requested by VVWD on such incentives and benefits, this may be the end of the road for that legal strategy.
When it came to all other financial documents (including tax returns) VVWD demanded, Judge Williams denied the motion. In explaining his ruling, Williams declared, “I’m going to deny the motion to compel because it’s not relevant to the case. They can’t make the argument [of financial hardship] any more.”
With this hearing concluded, both sides will continue discovery. A hearing previously scheduled for August has been canceled, and the trial by jury is set to begin in April 2020 unless a settlement is reached prior to then.