As part of the discovery portion of a lawsuit Wolf Creek golf course filed against the Virgin Valley Water District (VWD) in May 2018, VVWD legal counsel Bo Bingham took a deposition of golf course co-owner Cory Clemetson over a seven-hour period.
Bingham asked Clemetson a myriad of questions about his interactions with elected officials Sandra Ramaker and Robert “Bubba” Smith, and other individuals hired by Clemetson.
Smith served on Mesquite City Council until 2011 and then on the VVWD Board of Directors from 2014-16. Ramaker served on the VVWD Board from 2010-16 and was elected to Mesquite City Council in 2018.
Mesquite Local News previously reported on a contract between Wolf Creek and Ramaker that required her to attend meetings of the VVWD Board of Directors, City Council, Chamber of Commerce and others and report back to Clemetson. The contract was signed in February 2017 and Ramaker says it was terminated in November 2018. She was paid $500 a month.
Wolf Creek hired Smith shortly after he left city council in July 2011. It’s presumed his contract was terminated when he was elected to the water board in 2014. He was paid between $150 and $750 a month via free golf rounds and golf shop merchandise.
Who hired them
Bingham said, “I’m asking you if you are the one at Wolf Creek that kind of keeps your finger on the pulse of what’s happening politically in Mesquite and making sure that Wolf Creek’s interests are protected?”
Clemetson said, “Yes. I am the person that does that.”
“And that includes the interactions with the public officials? That would be city council members and Virgin Valley Water District board members; correct?” Bingham asked.
“Correct,” Clemetson replied.
Ramaker contract with Wolf Creek
Bingham asked Clemetson how the contract with Ramaker came about.
Clemetson said, “After she lost her election, our staff was tired from going to these Water District meetings, and we wanted to hire somebody that was capable, competent, and obviously had experience in the water arena, and we thought of no better person than Sandra to be a person to attend the meetings, who could actually point out if there was something of concern that we needed to look at. And the city council. I mean, she would regularly attend those meetings for us as well.
“And then she did some other things for us just around town, because she’s on lots of different boards, and things like that. She started serving on our advisory board for Kids for Sports. So right when she lost — my guess is early 2017 that we had the conversation with her.”
“You’re the one that decided to hire her?” Bingham asked.
“Oh, yeah. Ultimately, it would be me,” Clemetson said.
Ramaker sharing confidential information
Bingham said, “There are several emails where Sandra obtains information from the Water District and then immediately, or very soon after, forwards it to either you or somebody at Wolf Creek. While she was a Water District board member, she would frequently send you information and documents related to the Water District; correct?”
“I think if there was issues that concerned us, she probably gave us a heads-up,” Clemetson said.
Bingham said, “She also sent you some privileged information. You’ve produced an email from me to Sandra, which is privileged. Which actually, ironically, relates to privilege. And she provided it to you.
“I’ll also put on the record that we object to the introduction of this document as part of this litigation and to the fact that it’s been kept by Wolf Creek, even though it’s clearly privileged. But for the purpose of establishing that Sandra sent you privileged information, you don’t dispute having received email from Sandra; correct?”
“No. I mean, it says, “[Clemetson’s email address is redacted]”; so of course I received it,” Clemetson said.
“And there are some of these emails that you guys have produced which — or that maybe Sandra produced, where somebody at Wolf Creek, or maybe you, asks for specific information, and then Sandra sends an email to the Water District and very soon after Sandra forwards that information on to you guys. So, it would appear that you guys were requesting Sandra to forward specific Water District information to Wolf Creek; right?” Bingham said.
Clemetson replied, “I think what we probably did, if there was information that we were needing to understand better, we’d say, ‘Hey, anything you can provide us that would concern us, let us know.’ I would have no basis of knowing what was privileged and wasn’t privileged in the meetings because I wasn’t there, obviously.”
“Well, you would know, though, that an email from me to Sandra — you would know that’s privileged?” Bingham asked.
“Again, after I received it I might know. But, I mean, I wouldn’t know prior to that,” Clemetson said.
Smith’s role with Wolf Creek
Note: Bubba Smith moved from Nevada shortly after he resigned the VVWD Board of Directors in 2016.
Bingham and Clemetson discussed several times that Smith had meetings with city council members after he left the council in 2011. At that time, a contract between Wolf Creek and the city for use of effluent water was being discussed between attorneys and council members.
Bingham referenced an email regarding Smith’s interactions about the effluent contract, saying, “I’m not talking specifically about the legal matter. But it does reference the effluent agreement here.”
“Yeah,” Clemetson said.
“It does say Bubba is doing a good job, you think he has most of the council’s support. ‘We need just three people to be on our side.’ Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears to me that you guys were paying Bubba to essentially represent Wolf Creek’s interests with the City Council.”
Clemetson said, “Well, he was out talking to them. And he was — at the time, he was a consultant and was our community relations person. And part of his job was to go meet with people when he could just — because I couldn’t do it if I wasn’t there always down at the golf course.”
“Were you having Sandra essentially do the same things for Wolf Creek?” Bingham asked.
“I think there’s a subtle difference here. Sandra’s role for us recently was more of to go take notes. In her capacity, she couldn’t get up and speak on behalf of Wolf Creek. She couldn’t represent anything. We wanted Sandra in the capacity of water district and city council meetings just to report back to us.
“In Bubba’s case here, there was a little more of an active duty. In around the time period that he did things, he was trying to deal with other golf courses and try to work with them to find a global water solution as well. There is a difference between that relationship as well in terms of expectation,” Clemetson said.
“So Bubba was authorized to speak on behalf of Wolf Creek, but Sandra wasn’t?” Bingham asked.
“He was authorized to have these meetings and report back to us on what the people were going to do,” Clemetson said.
Others who were hired
From the 1992 establishment of the Virgin Valley Water District, Reno attorney George Benesch served as the district’s legal counsel until he was terminated by the district’s board in February 2010.
Clemetson testified that he hired Benesch as his private attorney in 2005 to work on issues related to the Wolf Creek bankruptcy.
When Bingham asked if Benesch had received water district approval to represent both entities, Clemetson said, “At the time, he got approval from either the board or [former VVWD general manager] Mike Winters because he didn’t want to have a conflict of interest, but it was decided that there wasn’t.”
Clemetson said, “We were paying George Benesch to handle the effluent matter [contract with the city]. At the time of this, George Benesch was the attorney already writing back to the district. Benesch was primarily the one who was handling the legal matter with the City.”
“So you felt like because George wasn’t representing the water district anymore in 2011, it was okay for him to represent Wolf Creek in connection with the 2011 lease?” Bingham asked.
“Yeah. I didn’t see an issue with that. But, you know, it was really up to him,” Clemetson said.
Clemetson also testified that he hired former water district hydrologist Michael “Boomer” Johnson, who was convicted of 50 felony charges in a previous criminal trial related to the Water District.
“I don’t think I initially reached out to him. He got out of prison. I think he called to see how I was doing and check in. I think he’s a very knowledgeable guy on water. We asked him about effluent [water] in the area and what his experience was.
“We just wanted to see the process in how the accounting of the effluent is done, you know, from the City’s perspective. Is there anything that we should look at regarding that area. Pretty much turned him over to Jeff’s [Wolf Creek attorney Jeffrey Sylvester] office.”
After each part of this series is published, it is available online at www.MesquiteLocalNews.com
Part 1 of this series examined the origins and ownership of Wolf Creek golf course by Cory Clemetson and his brother Chad.
Part 2 discussed issues about the lease agreement between VVWD and Wolf Creek for 155 shares of irrigation water which is the heart of the lawsuit.
Part 3 discussed Clemetson’s efforts to monitor the amount of water the golf course uses and to reach agreements with VVWD prior to the lawsuit.
Part 4 examined information about Clemetson’s $2.125 million loan for which VVWD issued an estoppel agreement in 2012.
Part 5 reviewed Clemetson’s deposition in relation to setting the price of irrigation shares.
Paradise Canyon, LLC, which owns the Wolf Creek golf course in Mesquite, sued VVWD in May 2018 in civil court over a 2011 lease agreement that provides the golf course with irrigation water. Wolf Creek leases its shares of non-potable irrigation water at $250 a piece for a total annual payment of $38,750. The lease comes up for renewal this year.
As part of Mesquite Local News’ mission to educate and inform the public, this series of articles will examine the genesis of a lawsuit Paradise Canyon, LLC, owner of Wolf Creek golf course, filed against the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) in May 2018.