Judge stops Dangberg settlement
Senior Judge Carl Christensen indefinitely stopped Douglas County from dropping its claim to the historic Dangberg Home Ranch, acknowledging arguments that turning the property into a museum was a pioneer family’s last wish.
“I want you to stop everything,” Christensen told attorneys for Dangberg Holdings Nevada LLC and Douglas County. “Any further steps to dispose of the real and personal property is further stayed by the court. I don’t want somebody to go in the back room and foreclose the state of Nevada from having the park it was always intended to have.”
Christensen issued his order at the end of a 45-minute hearing Friday with attorneys for Douglas County, Dangberg Holdings Nevada LLC, the estate of Dangberg granddaughter Katrina Glide and the Nevada attorney general’s office.
At issue is the claim that the Dangberg family wished to leave the historic home ranch to the county or the state to be used as a living history museum. When the 9,800-acre ranch was sold in 1995, the current owners alleged that the county had a right to the ranch’s personal items, if anything. The owners, Don Bently and Bruce Park, also said they were concerned about a historical museum located in the middle of an operational cattle ranch.
County commissioners decided in March to accept a settlement from Dangberg Holdings Nevada LLC after concluding that it would be too expensive to renovate and operate the ranch. The attorney general’s office, however, asked for the stay earlier this week because it wants to add the ranch to the state parks system.
Christensen also ruled that the Glide estate and the state may intervene in the county’s lawsuit, but he chastised the state for waiting so long file its motion.
“Why the last minute decision to intervene?” he asked deputy attorney general George Taylor. “We have such a thing as judicial economy. Your last minute filing just puts us over the top.”
Attorney Milos Terzich, representing the Glide estate, said the late hour was determined by the county’s decision to accept a $50,000 offer of settlement from the ranch property owners in exchange for dropping the litigation.
“It would be unusual to have Douglas County and the state of Nevada be at odds with each other,” Christensen added.
Christensen suggested county commissioners might drop the settlement once they’ve had an opportunity to consider the state’s desire to operate the home ranch as a park.
Attorney Scott Brooke, representing the property owners, said he and his clients believed the settlement was binding because county commissioners had agreed to the terms although the agreement hasn’t been formalized.
“We have resolved the litigation and have no further desire to be in litigation,” Brooke said.
Christensen said he was amazed the county would proceed with the settlement knowing the state wants to take over the ranch.
“If Douglas County is now bound by the settlement, you can declare that in a lawsuit,” he said. “If you’re not now bound, the other parties have the right to be heard.”
The suit is set for trial Oct. 20 before Christensen. Douglas County’s judges Dave Gamble and Michael Gibbons voluntarily recused themselves.
Christensen claimed he was mislead by attorneys during a recent conference call as to the status of the county’s settlement of a pending lawsuit regarding the ranch.
“My conversation with you regarding the status quo was all hot air?” Christensen asked. “You let me say all that without correcting me?”
Chief Civil Deputy District Attorney Robert Morris said he believed that he had made it clear to Christensen that the board of commissioners had accepted the settlement offer. He and other attorneys said they delayed the final acceptance at the request of Christensen who wanted to hear the Glide estate’s motion to intervene.
“This entire proceeding is indicative of the confusion surrounding this case,” said Brooke.
In a motion filed Tuesday, the state argued that a 1977 lease is clear that the ranch should be offered to the state or county following the death of the last Dangberg granddaughter. Katrina Glide died in July, 1995.
“Under terms of the stock sale agreement between H.F. Dangberg Land and Livestock Co. and various parties … the state was given equitable interest, the right of first refusal to the real property known as the home ranch and various historical ranching equipment offered to the state or county for right of first refusal.”
The state claims that the offer has never been made.
“The state’s motion to intervene seeks to protect important equitable interests in the Dangberg Home Ranch for which the original shareholders of the Dangberg Land and Livestock Co. were very concerned that the property be preserved for future generations,” the state suit says.
Mike Fischer, a member of the county’s Home Ranch Committee and a former county commissioner, said Friday he was pleased with Christensen’s decision.
“I think it’s good that this will finally be decided in court and the legal right to the property ascertained,” Fischer said. “For many years that’s all I asked the commission to do and I’m glad that is finally going to occur.”
Terzich said representatives of the Glide estate were thrilled.
“The estate’s interest is in seeing the real property is offered to the state and that the Home Ranch does, in fact, become a public park for the benefit of all people, especially the citizens of Douglas County.”
Scott Brooke, who represents Dangberg Holdings Nevada LLC, said he is waiting to receive the complaints from the state and the Glide estate.
“We will respond appropriately after consultation with our client,” he said.