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Debt-ridden Los Alamos given time to seek trial delay, law firm withdraws

March 01, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Twenty-two million dollars in debt; no revenues.

All the employees are gone, too.

That's what Los Alamos Land Co. LP president Thomas Nassif told county Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jones this morning in response to Jones's denial of a Los Alamos motion to delay a trial pitting Los Alamos against Imperial County.

A motion was granted without prejudice allowing Los Alamos to again seek a continuance of the matter.

A second motion, by the law firm Cox, Castle & Nicholson of Los Angeles, to withdraw as Los Alamos' legal representation due to a failure of Los Alamos to pay it legal bills was granted by Jones.

Nassif told the court that Los Alamos has incurred $22 million in debt, has discharged all its employees and has no revenues. He said the only money available is interest on $8.36 million in Mello-Roos bonds sold for the construction of infrastructure.

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"All of our loans are in default," Nassif said. "We've have had to discharge all our employees."

He told the court he needs time to retain new counsel, and that with the $2.8 million settlement announced Wednesday between the county and an insurance company, things will be easier for him.

The settlement was for work paid for but not completed by a local construction company.

Nassif said the only way Los Alamos can raise money is through the sale of land in the Gateway of the Americas project area, but any sales are dependent on the project's infrastructure being completed. He said delays in the work are the fault of the county.

Nassif's comments took the court by surprise, and Jones ordered Nassif to put his comments in the form of declarations and supply those declarations to the court and the other parties' attorneys. Nassif, however, said without legal representation it would take some time.

Jones said he'd leave that problem to Nassif.

Underlying today's hearing is a lawsuit filed by Los Alamos against Imperial County. Los Alamos alleges it signed a Gateway backbone road agreement under duress because the county said it would not approve final development maps for Los Alamos until Los Alamos gave a cash deposit for two lanes of the road.

County Counsel Ralph Córdova Jr. said the county is not opposed to the granting of a continuance in the matter because when Los Alamos finds a new attorney the person will likely ask for a continuance to fully prepare for the trial.

Córdova, however, said he is opposed to a continuance of the trial until November as requested by Los Alamos because of the likelihood that the new Los Alamos attorney will seek a continuance.

The trial is set for May 2. It is expected to last four days.

Attorney Michael Rood of El Centro, representing Gateway landowner John Pierre Menvielle in the suit between Los Alamos and the county, said he is opposed to a continuance of the trial because any delays will potentially affect development plans in progress. He had no opposition to changing dates dealing with discovery in the case.

In the end, Jones ordered Stephen Abraham, the Cox, Castle & Nicholson attorney, to draw up the order allowing the firm's withdrawal as Los Alamos' attorney.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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