Douglas resident asks court to force punishment of former supervisor
Appeal Staff Writer
A retired Douglas County businessman has asked the Carson City District Court to force the city to prosecute a former city supervisor for criminal trespassing.
Jerry Vaccaro filed his demand Friday with the court. It names District Attorney Noel Waters and the Board of Supervisors as responsible for Bill Burnaugh illegally using federal land provided to the city for recreational, not commercial use.
“It looks like cronyism because Burnaugh used to be a city supervisor,” said Day Williams, Vaccaro’s attorney. “The city needs to stop showing favoritism to one business.”
The site in question, smaller than one acre, is next to Burnaugh’s business, Capitol City Loan at 5951 Highway 50 E. He has been using it to sell cars and provide parking to employees and customers since he bought the neighboring property in the early 1990s.
Burnaugh has paid taxes on the site, because a city assessor’s map indicates it is his property. Actually it is within a larger area set aside in 1973 for recreational and public uses. The city and U.S. Bureau of Land Management have an agreement allowing such facilities as JohnD Winters Centennial Park and Eagle Valley Golf Course within the 60 acres.
Vaccaro has been urging the city to prosecute Burnaugh since 1998. The city contends it can’t prosecute him because it doesn’t actually own the land.
“By delaying the matter, the Board of Supervisors continues to violate a BLM land patent and to allow Bill Burnaugh, an exÐcity supervisor, a windfall in that he illegally operates a commercial business on City property,” according to Vaccaro’s court request.
The supervisors in June opted not to pursue civil action against Burnaugh, and instructed the city manager to try and obtain the land free and clear. The District Attorney’s Office had been urged by Vaccaro to sue or prosecute Burnaugh.
The city has hired an appraiser to determine how much the land is worth, and BLM has been working with the city to resolve the issue to allow the city to eventually own the land. Supervisors asked for a progress report about the matter in December.
“Criminal trespass wouldn’t be an appropriate method of resolving this matter – especially after the board’s action,” said Michael Suglia, senior deputy district attorney. “And there’s a real legal question of whether Jerry Vaccaro has legal standing to file this suit.”
Laura FitzSimmons, Burnaugh’s attorney, also threatened legal action against the city if it were to prosecute or sue her client when the supervisors discussed the matter earlier this year. At that time, FitzSimmons said car sales that occur on the land comprise one-third of his business profit.
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.