What goes around, comes around

  It's been a bad legal year for the county movement. First came the March ruling in Nevada that struck down a Nye County ordinance claiming the county owned federal lands. Now, two public employees in New Mexico seem to have prevailed in their case against county-movement leader Dick Manning.

"(Due to a court-imposed gag order) I'm not allowed to say we were victorious," says Jeff DeBonis, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a D.C.-based watchdog group that helped with the case, "but I can say I'm happy."

Manning had sued Robert Salter, a New Mexico water resource specialist, and Thomas Dwyer, a Forest Service employee, for trespass when they inspected his locked mining operation on public land near Mogollon, N.M. Manning's complaints were eventually dismissed, but both men decided to sue Manning for harassment and malicious prosecution (HCN, 10/30/95).

Supporters of the plaintiffs hinted that the out-of-court settlement would act as a deterrent: "They will never do it again because they just got creamed in their pocketbook," says Sam Hitt of Forest Guardians.

To make matters worse for Manning, the gold and silver miner lost a similar court case less than a week later. A district judge in Albuquerque ruled that the inspectors did not need permission to enter Manning's unpatented claim and that Manning must post a reclamation bond. Manning's lawyer, Pete Domenici Jr. - son of the New Mexico senator - could not be reached for comment.

* Elizabeth Manning

High Country News Classifieds