Columbia Irrigation District files breach of contract lawsuit against Benton County

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldOctober 11, 2013 

The Columbia Irrigation District filed a breach of contract lawsuit Thursday against Benton County concerning the sale of 17 acres off Highway 397 in the Finley area.

The district believes the undeveloped land "was sold out from under us before we could complete the paperwork," said Joel Teeley, CID general manager.

Benton County Commissioner Shon Small told the Herald that the county has qualified staff who followed the law in selling the property.

"I do not feel this lawsuit has any merit," he said.

The suit was filed in Benton County Superior Court. It says irrigation district leaders agreed in 2007 to buy the land for $36,000, and county commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the sale and a quitclaim deed.

But the sale apparently hit a snag.

The irrigation district's attorney reviewed the deed and discovered errors in the legal description, the lawsuit said.

It says district board meeting minutes from March 6, 2007, show the district "was waiting for Benton County to provide a corrected legal description for the subject property."

The next month, the district's board moved to accept the quitclaim deed and authorize the district's then-manager to sign it, the lawsuit says.

Teeley said that was done in anticipation of getting the corrected deed. But the district has no record of the deed coming through, said Teeley, who became the general manager last year.

The district wanted the land for rock materials for canal repairs.

In February 2008, the county agreed to sell the land to Cameron and Lisa Shoemaker, with the resolution indicating the irrigation district had decided to back out of the purchase, the lawsuit says. But the district never gave notice it was backing out, the lawsuit says.

The suit also alleges the sale of the land to the Shoemakers for $15,000 amounts to "an unconstitutional lending of credit or gift of public funds."

It says that in 2007 a low fair market price for the land was estimated at $60,000, and the current assessed value tops $163,000.

The Shoemakers also are named in the lawsuit, along with Ivey Racing LLC, which is now a partner in the property.

None of the three current county commissioners was in office at the time.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529;; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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