Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard is scheduled to announce Thursday the details of a settlement agreement that will end a three-year legal dispute over alleged environmental devastation in Pinal County by Scottsdale developer George Johnson.
The settlement also will nullify a pending defamation lawsuit filed by Johnson against the state — and Goddard personally — over the attorney general’s 2005 claim that Johnson and his companies committed “wanton destruction of Arizona’s heritage resources.”
A news conference is set for 10 a.m. today at Goddard’s office in Phoenix to disclose details of the agreement. Neither Goddard nor Johnson would comment on the deal Wednesday.
The legal dispute stems from a February 2005 complaint filed by Goddard’s office against Johnson and several of his companies in connection with efforts two years earlier to construct a large residential community in southern Pinal County dubbed La Osa Ranch, as well as work done along the banks of the Little Colorado River in Apache County.
Goddard’s office, on behalf of the state Department of Environmental Quality, accused Johnson of illegally blading both state and private property, including about 200 acres of state trust land.
The state also claims Johnson oversaw the destruction of Hohokam sites dating back to A.D. 750 and killing more than 40,000 protected native plants, including saguaro and ironwood, on state trust lands. The complaint also accuses him of allowing a herd of goats to graze on the land, causing an epidemic that killed 21 rare desert bighorn sheep.
The settlement announcement comes just one week after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Buttrick ruled that Goddard could use evidence relating to Johnson’s personal character in his attempts to prove the destruction of land and wildlife was intentional.