Scott Dunton and Las Vegas developer Jim Rhodes shaking hands is about as likely as Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell sharing fond childhood memories over tea and crumpets.
But after the rival Mohave County developers talked for eight hours Tuesday and agreed to forgive the sins of the past, the Trump-O'Donnell resolution may not be out of the question.
Their knuckles turned white mid-squeeze, and I wouldn't be surprised if they're still sore from the historic handshake. They may be undergoing reconstructive phalange surgery at this very moment, but the tribal battle, it seems, has ended.
(Enter anti-Rhodes, now anti-Dunton troops carrying banners that read "TRAITOR!" and "SELLOUT!")
On the surface, it's bizarre. Here's a guy who demanded that the city fire officials who he believed were in collusion with Rhodes last year when he was trying to acquire the city's Golden Valley well site parcels; he's called Rhodes a "scoundrel" who did dirty business with government officials; he's accused him of screwing contractors and builders and pretty much everyone else, including Dunton himself.
After all of that, why on God's brown desert earth would he "make a deal" with Rhodes?! I can't get over it. Now he wants to give Rhodes a second chance?
What is Dunton, then? Is he a traitor? A sellout? A few people have said as much. Is Dunton now a Rhodes guy?
Let's take a look:
The "deal" was to settle the more than three-year-old lawsuit between the two. Dunton had claimed and a judge and unanimous jury in August had agreed that Rhodes did not uphold his end of a land transaction. Rhodes filed for an appeal, but then called a meeting with Dunton the day before Rhodes planned to go before the county Planning and Zoning Commission as part one of a two-part public hearing and approval process for Rhodes' master planned community in Golden Valley - 5,000 acres, roughly 25,000 homes, commercial land, schools, parks, everything.
They met, each accompanied by friends and witnesses, later inviting yours truly to take the photo of the tea party, and now Dunton's satisfied, quiet, finished with the "scoundrel" comments.
Is that selling out? Ask a few of the other Duntons, people who, like the real one, aren't shy about airing their grievances over Rhodes' Golden Valley project and acquisition of thousands of acre-feet of water, and it's clear that to them he did sell out.
This is what he told me: "I could have not settled my deal and not have anything come out in public that they're committed to, but either way, the Board of Supervisors is going to pass it. Period. So here's the alternative: If they don't do what's right, we were prepared to go after racketeering and conspiracy and political corruption. Would have opened up all the e-mails again. It would have made life miserable for the city, miserable for the county, and then we would have had to do a referendum at the county," he said.
He thought Pravada would go through anyway, and because Rhodes already owns the land, there's not much he could do to stop the development. But they've been fighting for years, and it's carried over into city business with the well sites. I know it wasn't an easy decision; I know he's not feeling great about being vilified by a handful of people in the community, but he decided to settle. But before he did, he made Rhodes commit to making right what he botched with the city last year, and now Rhodes has agreed to buy the sites, eliminate the city from the equation altogether, and on top of that give six equal replacement sites closer to city limits. Good for Kingman? You decide.
He wanted reassurances as well on the county roads, that they would stay as dedicated highways. Got it. He wanted Rhodes to get going on Pravada and let the community gauge it as a success or failure before giving approval to another project. Got it. And he wanted assurances that Rhodes wouldn't come in and drink up all the water. Got it. Dunton didn't have to do these things, but he did. What's more, Rhodes was on board. I say this hoping that a bomb doesn't explode at the end of the sentence, but I believe kudos are in order for both men.
...? Good. No bomb.
Now, just because Dunton and Rhodes made nice doesn't mean we all put on blinders, follow directions from Mr. D and crumble before Rhodesian Rule and assume Jim and his barrage of consultants and PR folk will go about conducting business legally, honestly, respectfully and publicly from here on. They have the opportunity, and they have the support of Dunton, the developer formerly known as Rhodes' biggest critic, but that doesn't mean we move on with blind trust. We should continue to scrutinize and question anything that smells, but let's give Rhodes a chance to spray some Febreeze on his earlier dealings and prove to Golden Valley, Kingman and Mohave County that he is here for our benefit, not our demise.
Dunton looked at the big picture, saw that he couldn't stop Rhodes, recognized that stopping Rhodes may not be in the best interest of the community, and agreed to quiet down so long as Rhodes does things above-board.
"I'm not vouching for him at all. But I'm saying, is it better to go to war and ruin everybody's lives, or stop and give it a chance?" He then issued his own assurances. First, speaking through me to Rhodes, he said, "If you screw one of my friends, I'll be the first to say something." Then, "If he abuses it, I'll be back." Then, "I will never lie to you, Nick. I will never lie to those people. If they do something that isn't right, I'll be there." And before that, "I said, 'Jim, I'm not going to say anything bad about you, but if you do anything in the future, you've got to own it.'"
Everybody has a chance to do right in this situation. Rhodes, show us what you're made of.