Sun, Jan. 26

Council members served in mining-related lawsuit

Staff photo by Carol Keefer

Looking northeast from the Nation's berm toward neighboring properties. This photo does not necessarily show the properties of those who filed the lawsuit.

It is unknown at this time if the town attorney will handle the council member's involvement or if each must hire independent legal counsel.

Eberhard, et al, are demanding compensatory damages for gross negligence, deliberately indifferent and wanton disregard for their federal and state constitutional rights to be determined at trial, and punitive damages to punish the defendants in what is described in the document as "arbitrary, capricious and wrongful conduct."

They also are demanding attorney's fees, a permanent injunction to stop the mining operation and restoration of the mined lands to its original character.

The complaint centers around a long-standing conflict that Eberhard, et al, have had against town officials and the Nation over the Nation's sand-and-rock mining operation on neighboring property located off Arizona 260. The Nation is currently attempting to place the land in trust (reservation status). It has maintained for years that the operation is part of a reclamation effort for eventual housing and agricultural purposes.

The trust application, which would remove the land from the town's jurisdiction, was delayed in August due to appeals filed by the governor's office, Salt River Project and Eberhard, Peterson, Scagnelli, and Strathmere.

According to this most recent lawsuit document filed against the town and nation, "On or about July 30, 2003, the Camp Verde Town Council approved a use permit for the defendant Yavapai-Apache Nation for the purpose of allowing a mining operation that had been operating illegally, and for the alleged purpose of allowing reclamation activity for purported agriculture uses on 310 acres. Defendant Yavapai-Apache Nation, at the time of the conduct alleged herein, and presently, owns the Y-A parcels in fee simple. At the time of the conduct alleged herein, the Y-A parcels were not and are not currently part of a federal land trust, but are private parcels within the jurisdiction of the Town of Camp Verde."

It states that the town demonstrated gross negligence, and wanton and reckless conduct in the matter.

Eberhard, as a past council member, fought hard to keep the Nation from operating its sand-and-rock mining business. Eberhard later lost his council seat. The current council, under Mayor Mitch Dickinson, settled the longstanding conflict, which included granting the Nation's request for a use permit to mine.

Gioia, who was on both the past council and current, opposed the decision.

The Nation started the use permit process around 1998.

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