The lawyer for landowner Jerry Cox made an attempt this week to bring up a wide variety of issues in the controversial case and though he didn’t succeed, he will have a chance to introduce the claims in the coming three weeks.
The Cox case has been ongoing for close to two years and involves a Mariposa County Superior Court ruling that found Cox, owner of JDC Land Company, in violation of more than 100 building code violations.
However, since that ruling, Cox has steadfastly claimed the charges are nothing more than county officials attempting to grab his property and run him out of the county.
Instead, Cox has held firm, even running for county supervisor this year.
When the ruling was handed down, the court appointed a receiver in the cases.
Mark Adams…”According to residents Don Fisher, and Maria Anast, Mark Adams of the California Receivership Group, had some of the repairs made at the residential hotel since taking it over. But they also believe that he has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay himself, his affiliates, and others working for him, instead of using the money for the majority of the repairs that still need to be done at Empyrean Towers. ” Adams has billed Jerry Cox hundreds of thousands of dollars after repairing not much or nothing on Jerry’s ranch!
Mark Adams of California Receivership Group was appointed by the court. Receivers in California are generally charged with overseeing necessary repairs as determined in the court case. They typically borrow money and then ask the court for the person accused, in this case Cox, to pay back those funds.
In the past few months, there have been regular status conferences in the court of Judge Dana Walton and another was held on Monday of this week.
Cox’s new attorney, Marc Angelucci of San Diego, had sent to the court his own status update objecting to the receiver’s fees as well as a request for a jury trial.
The list of objections is lengthy and covers everything from what Cox said was gross overcharging by the security firm to failure to use the receivership funds for repairs, taxes and other issues at the property.
“My only concern is the timing,” said Walton of the filing by Cox.
The paperwork was filed on the Friday before the hearing this past Monday.
Adams, too, submitted a report to the court, indicating he wants more than $500,000 he says is owed by Cox.
NCFM Vice-President Marc Angelucci, Esq.
But Angelucci is objecting to the amount, saying Adams could not even secure a contractor for the job and that it was Cox who had to find someone to give an estimate and ultimately a contractor to do the work.
That work, said Angelucci, has been less than $8,000, compared to what he said was more than $250,000 estimated by Adams that was needed to do the repairs.
Adams told the court this week that Building Design Group, the firm which was given the job of overseeing the repairs, “believes the work is done” but that it has not met final approval by the county’s building department. He said he expected that to be done this week.
Matt Silver, an attorney with Silver & White, the law firm representing the county in the case, objected to the filing by Cox.
Silver called it “extremely unreasonable” saying the case has been ongoing for “17 to 18 months” and state law mandates any counter be filed shortly after the initial decision.
He also objected to the request for a jury trial, citing state code which he said specifically prohibits a jury trial.
“We are 17 months past the time to file for a jury trial,” said Silver.
But Angelucci countered, saying Cox “has been raising these objections all along.”
He also told the court some of the issues raised didn’t even happen until well after the property had been seized.
For example, he said, there is video of the security guards using Cox’s all-terrain vehicles as well as having their families on the property — property they were supposed to be guarding.
“We couldn’t have raised this in the beginning,” said Angelucci.
Walton told Angelucci he was “not going to rule” on the request and the objections, however, he did say he would allow him to “file the appropriate motions.”
That could be a major turning point in the case and would almost certainly allow
Cox to air his grievances about what he believes are the disparities in the case.
Walton said it is “appropriate for the court to hear any motions” by Cox.
Adams then brought up the issue of possibly placing the property in foreclosure, or putting it for sale on the open market in order to recoup his costs.
Though the judge said Adams could talk to realtors, he made it clear that he was not going to allow it to be put on the market at this point in time.
“I’m not going to order anything at this stage,” said Walton.
He added there would be “no listing agreement at this stage.” He also told Adams any such agreement would be a “dice roll” on the part of a realtor.
The judge also told all parties involved to meet and confer to “see if there is any room for negotiations” on a possible payoff amount by Cox to get his property back.
Walton also said he did not want to “preclude” Cox from being able to purchase his property back, depending on the payoff amount as a result of the receivership and possible negotiations.
At the end of the hearing, the judge asked everyone involved if they had any thing to say before the next scheduled hearing.
“Can I get back by Thanksgiving?” Cox asked the judge, seeking to go back onto his property.
“That will be addressed by motion,” said Walton.
Those are apparently the motions which Cox’s attorney will be filing prior to the next court hearing.
That hearing is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 26 at 2 p.m. — after Thanksgiving.
Though the status update and arguments presented by Angelucci on behalf of Cox were not allowed to be heard this week, it is likely the issues at hand will be outlined in the motions filed by the attorney.
Here are some of the issues he brought up in the status updated which was presented as part of the record on Monday:
• Cox should be allowed back into his home and business. The attorney argues it is Cox’s home and business as well as his livelihood.
“The harm to Mr. Cox far outweighs any prejudice caused to the receiver and the county,” wrote Angelucci.
• The remaining abatements are resolved. “Nobody gets kicked out of their home for not having a smoke detector,” wrote Angelucci.
•Lawsuit by Pipkin Detective Agency against receiver. Angelucci said Cox objects to the security bill and has requested permission to sue both the receiver and the county “for breaches of their fiduciary duties … There is no reason to keep Mr. Cox from his property while the issues is being addressed.”
• Objection to the receiver’s bill of $515,376. Again, Angelucci is requesting a jury trial or permission to file a separate lawsuit. He claims Adams has “exaggerated the violations, exaggerated the costs of repairs, failed to use the receivership funds for repair, damaged and vandalized the property and committed numerous other breaches of its duties.”
He also wrote: “This appears to be a pattern as documented in other cases where the receiver has engaged in abusive cost overruns with the sole goal and intent of stripping out the equity of the property to enrich the receiver and its attorneys.”
• Failure to obtain estimates per the mandate in the receivership order. Angelucci said the receiver was “required by law” and the court’s order to obtain estimates, but failed to do so. “Instead, the receiver claimed it could not obtain estimates due to the public controversy over the property,” he wrote. “The receiver offered no credible evidence supporting this assertion or documenting its legitimate efforts to obtain estimates. JDC Land obtained estimates without any problems.”
• Exaggerating abatement costs. Angelucci said in September 2017, Adams requested $257,000 to fix “alleged violations” on the property. “The receiver failed to obtain estimates.” It further states that Cox hired Aaron Calvalaro Construction, which estimated the costs “to be only $7,900.” The attorney called the difference “so enormous” that a case can be made for “negligence, if not outright exaggeration and fraud” on the part of Adams.
• Falsifying the need for security. Angelucci said there was “no need” to place armed guards at the property. He said for the last six months, the property has been vacant “with no security.”
• Falsifying the “bridge” violation. He said Adams listed one of the violations as a “fire hazard, inadequate bridge construction,” citing health and safety codes. The bridge referenced, said Angelucci, is the one over the creek. “That bridge is owned by the state of California with an easement over the property, primarily for purposes of fires. The state of California performs yearly inspections to ensure its adequacy for use and regularly uses the bridge.” The attorney referenced a video on YouTube which shows CAL FIRE using the bridge during the Detwiler Fire, after the property had been seized.
The attorney also listed various other issues, from animal neglect to permit issues.