Sports complex on hold as Wischmeyers sue Camp Verde mayor

Promised a 100-foot buffer, McCracken area property owners upset as town has different view of open space requirements

Cheri Wischmeyer

Cheri Wischmeyer

— What is a buffer?

It’s something worth fighting over, according to John and Cheri Wischmeyer, whose home off McCracken Lane in Camp Verde shares a border with the proposed Camp Verde Sports Complex.

With a 6-to-1 vote, the 100-foot buffer was promised by the Camp Verde Town Council in November 2008. The one dissenting vote was by then-council member Charlie German, who has been mayor of Camp Verde since 2013.

German’s residence also shares a border with the proposed facility.

On Feb. 28, the Wischmeyers filed a suit against German based on conflict of interest.

In the suit, the Wischmeyers cite that in conjunction with Arizona Revised Statute 38-503 (B), “any public officer … who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any decision of a public agency shall make known such interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from participating in any manner as an officer … in such decision.”

On May 6, 2009, consent agenda item of the Camp Verde Town Council, German filed a Conflict of Interest Disclosure Memorandum pursuant to ARS 38-501-511 and recused himself from discussing, voting or otherwise participating in the approval of revised language contained in the Special Warranty Deed for the sale of Town-owned property consisting of a .36-acre parcel of the northern boundary of the proposed community park located at McCracken Lane to Carol German.

“I never interpreted that I was recusing myself [for all] development of the park,” Charlie German said.

Carol German’s late-husband was Charlie German’s brother.

Changing the landscape

According to Camp Verde Town Manager Russ Martin, the Town planned a storm water drainage ditch that would also be within the buffer zone. Because of the drainage, Martin said the trail planned to be part of the complex would be farther from the residents’ properties than previously planned.

Drainage will be built “to protect the development of the park, as well as drainage going in either direction,” Martin said.

On Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, the Town of Camp Verde graded dirt adjacent and parallel to the residences of Wischmeyer and at least two other families.

With several properties in line with the grading, the distance between the Town’s grading and the fences to those properties varies between 15 and 30 feet.

Though at first glance the grading appears to be the width of a road, Camp Verde Town Manager Russ Martin said recently that the grading area was to “clear vegetation so we could show bidders the general limits of the project.”

Town of Camp Verde’s current Planning and Zoning Ordinances has defined buffer as “Undeveloped or landscaped property used to separate the activity from surrounding properties. Required landscaping or setbacks do not qualify as buffer.”

“Once they said they’d honor the agreement, I thought it was a done deal,” said Cheri Wischmeyer, who “attended council meetings” in 2008 that pertained to the proposed park.

On Feb. 9, Cheri Wischmeyer and Charlie German spoke at the German home. Though the conversation was not friendly, German said it also “was not combative.”

Wischmeyer said that after she and German spoke “for a few minutes,” he said “this is the Town’s property, and we’ll do with it what we want. And if you don’t like it, sue.”

Although German did not disagree Tuesday with those words, he said he told Wischmeyer she could sue because it was her “legal right.”

“I’m very careful how I choose my words,” German said. “With that said, the Town has the legal right to develop its property.”

Lawsuit documents

At council’s Feb. 28 meeting, Cheri Wischmeyer spoke before she presented Mayor German with a copy of lawsuit documents.

“If not restrained, the defendant will soon begin to dig a drainage ditch approximately 40 feet wide, several feet deep, and hundreds of feet long, irreparably destroying the habitat within the buffer area,” the Wischmeyer’s suit claims in its general allegations.

“Nobody in his right mind says you want a ditch” so close to the property,” Cheri Wischmeyer said.

She also said Monday that the buffer isn’t “just for the park.”

“The buffer is also for construction, to provide some semblance of peace from the noise and the dirt,” Wischmeyer said.

With a hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, March 9, the Wischmeyers ask for judgments including that he recuse himself from all park-related issues and that all work on the park be halted, both “pending resolution of this matter.”

The Wischmeyers also ask in their suit that German be removed from his position as Camp Verde’s mayor “to prevent his further exploitation of his position.”

The Wischmeyers have also asked, according to Arizona Revised Statute 38-431.07(B), for a temporary restraining order that would prohibit Town of Camp Verde funds from being used for German’s defense.

According to Town Clerk Judy Morgan, the Town of Camp Verde has “tendered this complaint to the town’s insurer, the Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool, a risk pool authorized by state statute.”

“The town is a founding member of the Arizona Municipal Risk Pool,” Morgan said. “The Risk Pool has retained counsel who will be defending the mayor.”

Cheri Wischmeyer said that she and her husband John would represent themselves in court.

The 9 a.m. March 9 hearing will be held in Yavapai County Superior Court in the chambers of Judge Chris Kottke.

Yavapai County Superior Court is located at 2840 Commonwealth Drive in Camp Verde.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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