Judge rejects demand to force city to prosecute ex-supervisor
October 23, 2006
District Judge Mike Griffin on Monday rejected the demand Carson City be forced to prosecute former Supervisor Bill Burnaugh for trespassing on public land.
Jerry Vaccaro filed the petition for a writ of mandamus charging that Burnaugh is illegally using federal land for his business.
The site is smaller than an acre and next to Burnaugh’s Capitol City Loan business on Highway 50 East. He has been using the property since he bought the land next to it in the early 1990s.
In fact, Burnaugh has paid taxes on the site because a city assessor’s map lists it as his property. But the land is actually part of a grant of federal property set aside for recreational and public use by the Bureau of Land Management.
Vaccaro says failure to prosecute violates the BLM patent on the property and gives Burnaugh an illegal windfall by allowing him to operate commercial business on the property.
When the city decided in June not to pursue civil or criminal action against Burnaugh, Vaccaro filed in Carson District Court seeking to force them to act.
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Griffin refused Monday in an order saying the prosecution of criminal cases “rests completely in the discretion of the Carson District Attorney.”
“Therefore, the petitioner’s first request asking this court to order District Attorney (Noel) Waters and/or his successors to criminally prosecute Mr. Burnaugh is denied.”
Vaccaro also asked the court to authorize a civil action against Burnaugh, but the judge rejected that request as well. Griffin ruled that decision is within the discretion of the Board of Supervisors. He ruled the court cannot compel an officer or board to perform a discretionary act.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.