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Efforts to end Gateway legal disputes stall

April 19, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Ongoing efforts to settle some of the legal disputes among Gateway of the Americas project landowners and the county came to a sudden halt Wednesday during the final stages of a settlement conference before Superior Court Judge Donal Donnelly.

Don Worley, outside attorney for the county, said the parties were fairly close to resolving the issues that would allow the development project to move forward.

A formal reading of the settlement terms into the court record set for Monday was dashed when obstacles were raised at the last minute.

The underlying case was filed against the county by Los Alamos Land Co. LP, in which Los Alamos claims it was forced to agree to a cost-sharing agreement for a Gateway project backbone road known as Menvielle Road. Los Alamos also argues the county required Los Alamos to agree to the conditions or face delays in the project.

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The settlement appeared to collapse at the last minute over an 11th hour condition sought by Los Alamos principal Thomas Nassif, according to Menvielle attorney Timothy Fields.

"Efforts to settle this case have failed because of Los Alamos's attempt to interject an entirely new issue at 11th hour," Fields said. "As a result we've declined to try to renegotiate the entire deal, and we're prepared to go to trial and Los Alamos will now be held accountable in court."

Los Alamos principal Carl Maggio attended the conference but deferred questions to Los Alamos attorney Jim Graves, who declined to comment. Nassif did not attend but was in contact with Graves by phone.

Settlement terms include that Los Alamos dismiss its lawsuit against the county, that a cross complaint against Los Alamos by Gateway landowner John Pierre Menvielle be dismissed, that Los Alamos abandon its appeal of certain court rulings not in Los Alamos' favor, that Los Alamos dismiss certain other legal actions, and that certain rights-of-way for Highway 98 east of Highway 7 be returned to Los Alamos.

Fields said Nassif sought to expand the settlement to include rights of the parties concerning future reimbursements.

"Future reimbursements are not a part of the current lawsuit. They haven't been discussed in any of the settlement negotiations to date," Fields said. "Basically, we view it as just a game that they're playing at the last minute to try to add new issues to the settlement, and we're not willing to do that. We want a settlement and we want to put it to bed."

Fields said he was unsure what Nassif meant by future reimbursements.

"We're not sure, because we don't understand that there's any obligation by any party to make expenditures on behalf of any other party for which there would be a reimbursement plan."

Meanwhile, the case is set for trial May 2.

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

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