Judge Timothy C. Williams denied a motion for Summary Judgement requested by Wolf Creek golf course in its ongoing lawsuit filed against the Virgin Valley Water District in a ruling issued from a May 28 hearing.
“After a review of the exhibits, deposition and declaration of Wesley Smith, Mark McEwen, Kevin Brown and Colby Pellegrino, it is apparent that these are disputed material issues of fact as to the counterclaims asserted by the VVWD that preclude granting Summary Judgement,” Judge Williams said.
After taking just two depositions from Kevin Brown, VVWD general manager, and Kelby Hughes, president of Mesquite Irrigation Company (MIC), Wolf Creek’s attorneys filed for a summary judgement in its favor. A summary judgment is a decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented in the legal pleadings and documents filed, without a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case, and one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
VVWD also filed a Motion to Compel in the court case asking the judge to require Paradise Canyon, corporate owner of Wolf Creek, to provide the district’s attorneys with documents concerning “Wolf Creek’s financial condition and its claimed inability to pay the market rate for irrigation water.”
The district first asked for the financial records on April 12. Wolf Creek’s attorneys objected to the request and so far have refused to provide the documents saying in court documents that “Wolf Creek is not struggling financially, did not/does not need a subsidy from VVWD, can likely afford to pay VVWD’s unconscionable rate-hike, but would rather save $140,000/year in irrigation costs, as any legitimate business would.”
VVWD says that as far back as 2011 “Wolf Creek convinced a majority of the district’s board members at the time that Wolf Creek was struggling financially and that the cheap water would be a temporary ‘shot in the arm’ to help the golf course during those tough economic times of 2011.”
Back then, the VVWD Board of Directors set a $250 per share rate for irrigation water. In March, the board voted unanimously to set the rate at $1,115 per share beginning Jan. 1, 2020, a reduction from the current rate of $1,246.
In multiple meeting records and court documents, Wolf Creek has claimed that “Paradise Canyon is asking to pay a reasonable lease rate for irrigation water, to sustain its ongoing vitality for the benefit of the community,” and “If Paradise Canyon did not agree to pay [the higher lease rate] VVWD could terminate its rights to lease the shares thereby jeopardizing its financing and continued operations.”
Wolf Creek has also claimed that the community of Mesquite as a whole is dependent on the financial viability of the golf course. A January 2015 letter signed by Wolf Creek golf club general manager Darren Stanek said, “Last year  we had to shut down during peak season in March to replace our greens. This was an unforeseen issue that was a huge expense and loss of revenue for Wolf Creek and if you check with other businesses, you will find that our closing had a big impact on room occupancy and resort travel to Mesquite.”
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Visitor Volume report for March 2014 shows a 12.8 percent increase in visitor counts from the previous year. Total occupancy was up 2.2 percent to 90.5 percent and total room nights occupied was also up 2 percent.
In 2016, “Wolf Creek owner Cory Clemetson is quoted in a Desert Valley Times article regarding irrigation rate increases, ‘Wolf Creek being down and brown is not a good thing for the city,’” say the VVWD court documents.
Wolf Creek attorneys fired back against VVWD attorneys saying the district’s request for the motion to compel production of financial documents “is not to resolve a legitimate discovery dispute, because none exists, but rather (apparently) to tell its verifiably false tales so it can disseminate the same to the ‘Local Mesquite News’ (sic) and further disparage Wolf Creek Golf Course in the court of (local) public opinion.”
Wolf Creek’s opposition to the VVWD motion further says “Paradose (sic) Canyon is not making any poverty claim. VVWD is fishing for information to further smear Wolf Creek in the local press, nothing more.”
Paradise Canyon attorneys also claim that “VVWD has unapologetically disclosed discovery documents disclosed in this case to the local online news outlet called ‘Mesquite Legal News,’ (sic) raising further reason why Plaintiff [Wolf Creek] would not disclose its private confidential records to this defendant.”
[Note: All documents obtained by Mesquite Local News have been in accordance with public information requests and laws of the state of Nevada.]
The district’s motion to compel also requests documents that could prove or disprove “benefits Wolf Creek has bestowed on certain witnesses and public officials who have advocated for Wolf Creek and who have already provided testimony favorable to Wolf Creek in this litigation.”
That claim is based on “emails whereby [Sandra] Ramaker [current Mesquite city councilwoman] provided Wolf Creek with various documents and information related to the District. Ramaker even provided Wolf Creek’s owner, Cory Clemetson with privileged communication (email) from the District’s legal counsel.”
The court filing by VVWD says, “What’s worse, the District was heavily involved in litigation at that time with associates of Clemetson and Clemetson was working to try to convince certain parties, including District board members, to drop the litigation.”
The litigation referenced in the claim is the civil lawsuit the District filed in 2011 against its former General Manager Mike Winters, former Chief Hydrologist Michael Johnson, then-Deputy State Water Engineer Robert Coache, and wealthy businessman and landowner John Lonetti, Jr. The lawsuit alleged the District lost almost $8 million in two separate water share sale transactions in 2005 and 2008 because of an alleged conspiracy among the men.
Johnson and Coache were later convicted in a criminal trial and sentenced to almost three years in prison.
Ramaker was an elected member of the VVWD Board of Directors from 2010 to 2016. She was elected to the Mesquite City Council in 2018.
Paradise Canyon attorneys have also refused to turn over any documents regarding alleged gifts of “free golf” saying “There are no ‘free golf’ records, and as noted in the well-taken objection, this request is facially overbroad and seeks irrelevant information.”
In his deposition however, Clemetson admits to having paid former councilman Robert ‘Bubba’ Smith with free golf rounds and golf shop merchandise and also to Ramaker’s husband saying “There was one time, but he pays for his golf. There was only one time in the history that we could find that came up, like in the middle of July and it was based a (sic) hot time as opposed to a full rate.”
VVWD court documents allege that “Wolf Creek essentially claims that for financial reasons it can’t survive if it is forced to pay market rates. However, by its own admission, Wolf Creek is a “bucket list” golf course with 30,000 rounds of golf purchased annually.
“With 2019 golf rates during peak months ranging from $185 to $230 per round, greens fees alone for Wolf Creek likely amount to $5,550,000 – $6,900,000 per year [gross revenue], not including clubhouse, pro shop, or restaurant revenues. Thus, Wolf Creek has already claimed poverty and will do so at trial while at the same time attempting to portray the District as a greedy ‘monopolistic’ utility.”
Judge Williams is likely to issue a ruling on VVWD’s Motion to Compel within a month.