Yuma County judge assigned to supervisor's lawsuit against county

A Yuma County Superior Court judge will preside over a Mohave County supervisor's lawsuit about a park formerly operated by the county.

Robert Moon, presiding judge for Mohave County Superior Court, on Wednesday assigned Yuma County judge John Nelson to the case.

Supervisor Buster Johnson filed a legal claim against the county after fellow supervisors Pete Byers and Tom Sockwell voted in February to turn over maintenance and operations of SARA Park to Lake Havasu City.

Johnson voted against the measure.

The claim became a lawsuit filed May 15 in superior court.

It has not been determined when Nelson, who has been on the bench for nearly four years, will preside over the case or whether the case will be heard in Mohave County or elsewhere.

Nelson is barred by judicial ethics from commenting on a pending case.

Mohave County Superior Court judges recused themselves from hearing the case because of a potential conflict of interest, according to County Attorney Bill Ekstrom.

"We ordinarily do (that) because the local judges receive their funding from the county," Ekstrom said.

"You do that to avoid an appearance of impropriety.

The judges recused themselves from the case because the county was involved in it.

That's a common practice."

John White, a deputy county attorney, tried unsuccessfully to dismiss the case, contending Johnson's attorney, Harvey Jackson of Lake Havasu City, failed to state a claim in which his client was entitled to relief.

Jackson could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit contends that Byers and Sockwell violated state law Feb.

4 when they approved an agreement to allow Lake Havasu City to operate the park.

Ekstrom has maintained the decision does not require a 3-0 vote, which Johnson contends is necessary.

Johnson favors continuing county operation of the park under a lease with the federal Bureau of Land Management that started in 1974.

He said the county invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements at the park, and he wants to negate the agreement.

Located south of Lake Havasu City, SARA Park covers 1,042 acres and has ballfields and a racetrack.