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10:41 AM Thu, Dec. 13th

Judge to hear SARA Park case Monday

An outside judge is scheduled a hear a motion Monday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson over maintenance of SARA Park south of Lake Havasu City.

Deputy County Attorney John White said he prepared a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that a state law allows counties to enter into agreements with other government agencies with parks in mind.

He said Judge John Nelson of Yuma County Superior Court is scheduled to consider the motion Monday in superior court in Kingman.

Nelson's office confirmed that the hearing is set for 8:30 a.m.

"Basically, what the county will argue is there is a specific statute, called the park statute, that allows the board (of supervisors) to do exactly what it did," White said.

The Arizona Revised Statute authorizes agreements for establishing, developing, maintaining or administering public parks.

White was referring to a 2-1 decision by the supervisors Feb.

4 to approve an intergovernmental agreement with Lake Havasu City for maintenance and operation of the park.

Johnson voted against the agreement.

He filed a claim Feb.

14 challenging the decision and filed suit in Superior Court May 13.

Johnson declined to comment on White's motion.

His attorney, Harvey Jackson of Lake Havasu City, could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Johnson and Jackson have contended that supervisors Pete Byers of Kingman and Tom Sockwell of Bullhead City violated state law when they approved the agreement with Lake Havasu City.

Jackson has maintained that the decision required a 3-0 vote.

Johnson, who is paying for the legal services, has said he favors continuing county operation of the 1,042-acre park under a lease with the federal Bureau of Land Management that started in 1974.

He believes the county turned over park operation to Lake Havasu City without fair compensation for improvements such as ball fields and a racetrack.

However, County Attorney Bill Ekstrom has said the agreement serves the best interests of residents of Lake Havasu City and the county.

After Johnson filed the suit, Mohave County Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Moon assigned the case to an outside judge to prevent conflict of interest.

Nelson reportedly could not hear the case sooner because he was presiding over a criminal case in Yuma County.