Monday, December 2, 2002
A Portland attorney has apparently erred in his second attempt to have Hood River County Counsel Teunis Wyers taken off the case of a disputed land exchange.
“I certainly have more useful things to do with my time than answer bar complaints filed by inexperienced lawyers who do not know how to behave,” wrote a frustrated Wyers in his Nov. 25 letter to Stacy Hankin, assistant disciplinary counsel for the Oregon State Bar Association.
At issue is a support document used by Chris Winter from the Cascade Resources Advocacy Group in his quest to have the Oregon Bar Association overturn its recent dismissal of ethics charges against Wyers.
Winter represents the Hood River Valley Residents Committee in pending litigation over the forest land exchange between the county and Mt. Hood Meadows earlier this year. He and co-counsel Ralph Bloemers contend that Wyers should not be involved in the current legal action because the Hood River attorney helped the HRVRC defeat a Meadows destination resort proposal 24 years ago.
In fact, Winter recently claimed that e-mail correspondence during the spring of 2001 between Wyers and a Meadows’ staffer discussed the mapping process to determine destination resorts sites within the county — proof that a conflict of interest exists.
“What Mr. Winter unfortunately does not know is that the Teunis Wyers to whom this e-mail was addressed was my son, Teunis G. Wyers, who at that time was working as a planning tech in the Hood River County Planning Department,” Wyers wrote in his rebuttal letter.
On Monday, Winter admitted that he did not know Wyers had a son working for the county. However, he said CRAG had no plans to pull its paperwork since the e-mail was not the only issue that had been brought to the Bar’s attention.
“We’ll just let the complaint go through, this was only one piece of information,” Winter said.
But Wyers contends the e-mail was the only new argument in the amended complaint and, since it is not valid, the whole matter should be dropped.
“My general response is that no historical facts have changed, no new ethics issues have been raised, and that this new complaint should be dismissed on the same grounds that the prior one was,” he said in his written statement.
In October, Hankin determined that there was no evidence to show that Wyers’ possession of past information would harm the pending case. Wyers successfully argued that the current litigation had been filed over the county’s legislative action to undertake a land exchange with Meadows and the company did not even have a destination resort application on the table for consideration.
However, Winter has asked the Bar to take a second look at the charges against Wyers since the original complaint was filed during the “writ of review” litigation which was dismissed twice this year in Hood River Circuit Court. He now requests that the Bar scrutinize the facts under the pending declaratory judgment action, a different legal venue using the same facts. According to Winters, Wyers’ past knowledge of confidential and private information could injure the HRVRC’s interests in the current case.
In July, Judge Donald Hull upheld his ruling of two months earlier that CRAG had followed the wrong legal format in its challenge. He said the “writ of review” was a request for court scrutiny of a quasi-judicial, or legally binding, decision and not for a legislative action.
Hull also determined that neither the HRVRC or McCarthy, one of its members and a plaintiff in the case, had “standing” to file the lawsuit since they had not sustained injury from the trade.
The HRVRC and McCarthy, who resides near the county land in question, allege that local government officials violated the public interest with the exchange. They argue that the appraisal of the timber land did not factor in Meadows’ public intent to build a destination resort on the property which borders its Cooper Spur Inn holdings.
The HRVRC contends the trade harms its mission to protect resource land and, thereby, negatively affects its ability to attract volunteers and members necessary for financial support. McCarthy claims that he has lost recreational use of the 640-acre county property that was exchanged for 700 acres with a $1 million payment to Meadows for the value differential between the county’s 3.9 million board feet of marketable timber and the 7.9 million on Meadows’ property.
The county and Meadows argue that state law requires forest appraisals to be based on the “highest and best” existing use and not on speculation over a development proposal that has not even been submitted.