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Water Board Counterclaim Drives Legal Costs Higher

Wolf Creek Golf Course

Mesquite, NV. A status hearing in the lawsuit by the owners of Paradise Canyon dba Wolf Creek Golf Course, against the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) is currently scheduled for August 7, before Judge Timothy C. Williams, in the Eighth Judicial Court, Las Vegas

On May 15, 2018, Paradise Canyon filed a civil suit (A-18-774539-B) arguing that the Virgin Valley Water District Board (VVWB) behaved arbitrarily and capriciously when increasing the irrigation rates from $250 to $1,115.67[i] per share. The VVWB insists that they have absolute power[ii] to increase public rates.

Virgin Valley Water Board from left to right Kevin Brown, manager Bo Bingham, attorney and Rich Bowler, Board Member at the Virgin Valley Water District Board Meeting: September 2018 Photo by Andrew Davey

In the meantime, on June 18th, Wes Smith, the VVWD chief financial officer, told the VVWB that payments to Jedediah (Bo) Bingham and his law firm (Bingham, Snow, and Caldwell) for defense against the Paradise Canyon lawsuit will reach $360,000 his year. Smith claims that it is $240,000 over the boards approved budget.  Nonetheless, Smith said, expenditures will be within the 2019 budget.

Nephi Julian Bunkerville member, center.

Nephi Julien, VVWB chairman, told those attending the meeting that it is ratepayer dollars that pay the cost of the suit brought against the district by wolf Creek. Former board member Barbara Ellestad, in an opinion piece on the Mesquite Local News, wrote about the rate increase. She argued, “don’t blame the water district. It didn’t do anything but what you voted the Water District Board of Directors to do when you elected them.”

It is up to the courts, not Ellestad to determine if the water board is and has acted appropriately. Remember, this case originated as a contract dispute over the power of the VVWB to arbitrarily and capriciously set rates and how those rates were determined. It was the VVWB arguably in consultation with Bingham who extended the suit through a counterclaim that increased the payments to his law firm not the owners of Paradise Canyon.

Consider this: while the suit centers on the water board’s rate setting practices, the counterclaim wandered off into unrelated territory, thus increasing both rate payer and Paradise Canyon costs.

Attorneys for Paradise Canyon filed a  motion for summary judgement in response to Bingham’s counterclaim. They argued, among other things, that Bingham had abused the legal process by filing the counterclaim which included a breach of contract which is totally unsupported by admissible evidence.

After a May 29, summary judgement hearing Judge Williams granted Paradise Canyon permission to amend its original complaint to counter Bingham’s allegations.

Ellestad, in her opinion piece, went on to make outrageous and unsupportable claims that Wolf Creek “was/is paying off local politicians,” Sandra Ramaker and Robert “Bubba,” Smith.

Those are libelous claims. Ellestad knows that Ms. Ramaker is not on the Wolf Creek Payroll. Ellestad knows that while Ms. Ramaker made a contract with Wolf Creek for consulting services in the past, she was never on their payroll nor did she consult at any time while serving as an elected official.

According to an owner of Paradise Canyon, Smith did consult with Wolf Creek on behalf of all the local golf courses to better coordinate relations with elected officials. However, he did not consult while serving in a public office.

If anything, Smith acted against Wolf Creek and the other golf courses when he was on the water board and voted to spent $9,148,628.96 for 124.5 shares of Mesquite Irrigation Company (MIC) and Bunkerville Irrigation Company (BIC). That averaged to about $73,483.00 per share.

While Ellestad was on the Water Board, Smith in a rare outburst said:  “No, we are not lying (about water and finances), we are just not giving them (the public) all the information. We are not going to tell you the whole story.”

Smith said:  “Anytime someone tries to deceive people, it is lying.” He said. “Every backdoor meeting closed-door meeting they (staff) are conspiring against you.,” Smith said. “They are talking about how to give it to you,” he said. They will continue to do this.  It is your (the public) job to protect you from them. And that is the truth”, he added.  Smith left the community for Texas and a new job.

Endnotes:

On May 22, 2019, a request was made to VVWB under the Nevada Open Records Act (N.R.S. 239 et seq) to provide all contracts, bills and payment information made by the VVWD to Bingham Snow & Caldwell. Nephi Julian, President of the VVWB, sent the request to Bingham, the subject of my inquiry.

As of July 3, that request had not been honored and has gone to the Nevada Attorney General for resolution.

[i] The Virgin Valley Water Board reduced its demand from $1,246 per share to $1,115.67 per share.

[ii] Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. An observation that a person’s sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases. The statement was made by Lord Acton, a British historian of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

About Author

Michael McGreer Mesquite, Nevada
Dr. Michael Manford McGreer is managing editor of Nevada-today.com and writes on issues that impact public policy.

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