Grand jury sought over Dreyfus deal
Douglas County commissioners want a grand jury investigation after hearing the Forest Service reversed a deal to give a special use permit to the owner of the Dreyfus Estate at Lake Tahoe
“The way the Forest Service has handled this is unscrupulous,” said Douglas County Commissioner Don Miner. “A grand jury investigation will find out whether there was any wrongdoing and fraudulent representation by the federal government.”
“We want to get to the bottom of it,” Commission Chairman Bernie Curtis said Friday. “I think it is very important to take a look at the dealings or lack thereof in this situation.”
Commissioners plan to file a formal inquiry with Douglas County for a grand jury investigation sometime next week.
A spokesperson for the Forest Service was unavailable for comment.
The Dreyfus Estate was the subject of the most expensive land exchange in U.S. Forest Service history and was the target of a federal probe looking into the transaction.
In a land exchange valued at $38 million, the federal government gave an Arizona-based land brokerage company, the Olympic Group, public land around Las Vegas in exchange for the Dreyfus estate.
The Forest Service reportedly had no interest in the nine-bedroom mansion or other improvements on the property and the agency allowed the Olympic Group to sell it. Minden-based Park Cattle Co. bought the buildings with the understanding that a special land-use permit would be issued for the company to operate the buildings as a conference center.
The Forest Service has since refused to issue a use permit, even after an investigation cleared Park Cattle Co., and Forest Service officials of any wrongdoing.
“The Forest Service issues 800 special-use permits a year. This is the first time they’ve failed to offer a special use permit. I find this more than a little strange,” Miner said.
“We have been hearing the Forest Service wants to tear the buildings down because they don’t want the responsibility to maintain them. Now, what they are saying is (Park Cattle Co.) is trespassing on their (Forest Service) land,” said Miner, who represents the Tahoe Basin.
Two years ago, the state’s congressional delegation received assurance the U.S. Forest Service wouldn’t demolish the 10,000-square-foot mansion. However, the issue over proper use of the facility has been clouded as the Forest Service decides what’s the best public use of the facility.
Miner thought the issue was resolved and Park Cattle Co. would be able to open the conference facility.
“There was hope over time that they would work this out. But now I’m hearing there’s no such luck. They want to get rid of Park Cattle Co., and they want to tear down the buildings,” Miner said.