The end was bittersweet, at best. Hilton was long gone. By 2002, no one was offering cash for the property.

So Hayenga went into business as a developer. The best deal she could find required her to work with a builder to market condominiums, sell them, and finally get her money when the project sold.

The last unit sold in 2005 — five years after the Hilton deal collapsed.

And that might well have been the end, Hayenga says, if not for Paul Gilbert.

Gilbert is a partner at Scottsdale-based Beus Gilbert. Widely recognized as the dean of Valley zoning attorneys, he's also a political player, with access that most lawyers can only dream of. A graduate of Brigham Young University who counts the Mormon Church as a client, Gilbert co-chaired Mitt Romney's presidential bid in Arizona.

The fundraisers he held for Romney were hardly an oddity for his palatial Paradise Valley home. Politicians in nearly every municipality in the county know they can count on Gilbert and his connections for campaign support.

Gilbert isn't a guy who intimidates; people give him what they want not because they're afraid, but because they like him. He's not a litigator — indeed, people who've worked with him say they can't imagine him writing a brief, much less arguing it in court. But he excels at the inside game.

Hayenga first consulted with Gilbert in 2000, when she realized that she would need a major zoning amendment to build anything. It didn't occur to her at the time that she might have a lawsuit over the units' disappearance.

But Gilbert, she says, was convinced of it.

Gilbert and his firm believed that Bob Gosnell had screwed her. "They kept saying, 'We'll try to help you,'" Hayenga recalls. "'That guy who sold you the property, he did you wrong. Go after him.'"

(Gilbert was out of town and couldn't be reached for comment. L. Richard Williams, a lawyer at his firm, says the story seems unlikely, pointing out that Gilbert is not a litigator.)

And while Hayenga had thought that maybe she should be reimbursed for her expenses rezoning the property, Gilbert explained that her claim was much bigger.

She'd lost out on the Hilton deal because of his misrepresentation, right? $4.35 million, down the drain! Then, add the time and money she spent trying to develop the property, and the fact that she still ended up with 40-some units less than Gosnell had promised . . . She'd suffered some real damages. He thought she could get $1.5 million in damages, easily.

Despite what his firm asserts today, it's clear Gilbert wasn't just blustering. That's because he agreed to take the case on contingency — meaning his firm wouldn't charge Hayenga attorney fees, in exchange for a share of any payday at the end. Hayenga would have to cover only the costs of litigation: expert witnesses, court fees, and the like. (That bill ended up totaling more than $50,000.)

No one could blame Hayenga for agreeing. "When you tell the top zoning attorneys in the city that you have a problem, and they say they'll handle it for you, you trust them," Hayenga says.

Surely, she had nothing to lose.


In retrospect, trusting Paul Gilbert may have been Miriam Hayenga's biggest mistake. She says she wondered, from the beginning, whether Gosnell was really to blame — after all, the city had also assured her that there were 120 units left for development, only to change its tune later.

David Leonard, an attorney based in both Tucson and Los Angeles, is representing Hayenga in a possible case against Gilbert's firm. (It's no coincidence that Leonard is in Tucson. Hayenga says none of the lawyers she consulted in town was willing to take on the powerful Beus Gilbert.)

Leonard blames Gilbert for his handling of the case. Even if he was convinced that Gosnell was at fault, Leonard says, he should have still included the city of Phoenix in the suit.

Lawyers call it the "empty chair" theory.

"You don't leave an empty chair for the defendants to point to and say, 'That guy did it,'" Leonard explains. It's the same principle in play if someone rear-ends you. You don't just sue the driver who hit you; you also sue the one who sideswiped them seconds before. Facts can grow more complicated as a case drags on, and a good lawyer will cover every possible base on the front end. Otherwise, a defendant can wiggle off the hook by blaming someone who's not a party to the claim.

But despite the city's culpability, Leonard says, Gilbert wasn't interested in suing it.

Leonard believes Gilbert had good reason not to go there — and it had nothing to do with the merits of the case. "He had a conflict of interest," Leonard says. "Do you think he's going to bite the hand that feeds him? No way can he sue the city. That would mess up the rest of his practice." (Williams, the lawyer at Gilbert's firm, disputes this, saying they've sued Phoenix on multiple occasions.)

Gilbert surely had good intentions; he must have seen an easy payday from Gosnell. But the truth of what happened proved to be infinitely more complicated than Gilbert's original view.

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8 comments
TImothy
TImothy

The city of phoenix developmental services, WHAT A JOKE. No wonder why they are broke. Their left had don't know what their right hand is doing. Everyone of them has a different answer for you and they wiegh everything on whether you are someone everyone likes. If not, good luck.

Thomas Coletto
Thomas Coletto

To the Greater Phoenix Community,

I have come to truly realize that what I was doing for those two months was so terribly wrong. I can't begin to know where to start, but I will try.

After my best friend died of causes which are still unknown, I have had a void in my heart. Nothing in my life was more painful then loosing him, and I think apart of myself died with him.

I will not release his name, because I have already destroyed my name, my families name, my mother, my father, and my grandfather's name. I can only wonder if they will ever truly forgive me for what I have done, and who I associated with.

I associated with true evil, I know this because a member of the NSM Las Vegas Unit, is a self-proclaimed satanist, as is Scott Hume, leader of the Arizona National Socialist Movement.

He has a satanic symbol tattooed on his upper back, the 5 pointed star with a goat head. Why am I telling you this? Because I realized through my own research, how associating with these people was the most damning decision I could have ever made.

I am an Atheist, I chose not to believe in god for my own reasons. Scott tried to push satanism on me, many nights, we would talk over yahoo messenger, and he would ask me to accept a Nazi demon, it was just insane. And he would push it on me. Just as he did to join the NSM. Satan is true evil, and I fell into his trap.

I was indeed influenced, stupid, and I allowed myself to be brainwashed, by people who seemed, so kind, and honest, and true at heart. But I was wrong. I always wondered if they knew I was 1/8th Native American. Would they still have accepted me?

I realized that jewish people, are indeed people, each of us, all of us, including myself have shades of gray. And there are people who are evil. I can't begin to forgive myself for what I did. But I know that the jews were exterminated. I know it because my Grandfather liberated a death camp in WW2. He was in the 26th ID 328th Infantry Regiment. He rarely spoke of WW2 at all, but I remember him telling me that evil people in the war tried to kill an entire people for their belief in god.

I find it hard to look at myself in the mirror, go outside, show my face. I never hated anyone, regardless of my stances on Illegal Immigration. This is fact: I used to HATE Arpaio, because he violates the constitution which I so strongly stand to protect, EVERY day he violates it.

I was not allowed to vote because of my felony, luckily it goes away, once my sentence is up. I tried to VOTE in November, and I did. My name was not removed up until a few months ago. This is the truth, and I was SO proud I even took a cell phone picture.

I voted for Obama, who I now disagree with on most issues, I just never liked McCain. I was a Ron Paul guy.

But I remember the feeling that night, when he won. I felt so proud, because of what happened. History unfolded before my eyes. I voted for, and witnessed history before my eyes, and I was so proud, I remember the warmth I felt in my chest when he spoke after he had become President Elect.

Illegal Immigration is wrong, yes, and I was never for any amnesty. But I felt always that our laws are outrageous, and unfair. We need workers, we need hard workers like them. Especially since this hits so close to home. A very good friend of mine immigrated here from Holland when he was a boy. He was with us when we got arrested for vandalism. He was landed with a permanent felony, and after he serves his probation... He is getting deported, and he can never come back, or visit again.

Not only did my best friend die, but now another close friend is moving away, and I will never see his face again... The last time I saw his was at my best friends funeral. Our group was a strange one, at least people in school thought so. It was me, a kid from Holland, a black Muslim, and a few other guys.

His name was never released (the black muslim), he was tried as a juvuinale, and is now on his way to Harvard. I just wish I could still have a positive future. But I fear that since I was so brainwashed and so stupid, I may have destroyed my life in it's entirety...

You know, I wanted to become a Criminal Defense lawyer, for people who could not afford it. I planned to get my Journalism Degree, and then go to law school. But I also fear now that all of that is lost.

I have done some terrible things, but I can't forgive myself for this mistake. I know I am not evil, I never hated anyone. I grew up in a all white neighborhood in New York, there was one black student in my class. He turned out to be my best friend until I moved here when I was 5. And we still talk occasionally. But I only fear that he google's my name, and then I would loose another life time friend.

The damage I have done to myself, and my family is overwhelming... And my mind was just filled with things, that when I look back and think about them now... How stupid was I. Why did I join them? Why didn't I think? What pain and suffering have I caused?

I thank you for reading this ramble to those of you who did. If you wish to contact me on this matter please do so at thomas.coletto@gmail.com

I hope that at least maybe someone could forgive me, and the mistakes I have made thus far.

Regards,Thomas Vito Coletto

Alexandra Seals
Alexandra Seals

I am as you read this going on a two year fight with city/government and all the good old boys cover up.I am a business owner been relocated by the city on the Automated Train System. After 2 years city has failed. I am still going through planning and all the development for my new site. This is a nightmare and I don�t know how some people get the jobs.To date I don�t know who is making the end decision. Is it Transit, Metro, City or Aviation FAA? All of them just playing a game. Any e-mail to any of the good old Boys, Gordon, Fairbanks, and McCain and or any City council is opened by the staff. There are the once answering your question and or looking into a case. All there getting back are watered down versions of how to cover up there lies, and keep there jobs. I am fighting city Hall, matter of fact Wednesday 3:00PM I will be there demanding some answerers from the good old boys on my case. So I do know how the game is been played.

Lorenzo
Lorenzo

Clearly, larger-scale commercial real estate development...as well as litigating against others when you make sophomoric mistakes...isn't for rank amateurs. Glad she's sticking with tennis & small rentals in the future.

Tormented
Tormented

Wow what a shocker! The City of Phoenix being anything but streight forward and honest? All it takes is for someone, (not even a Lawyer)to look into the details at any of these meetings and they too will see that "cover-up" is a common practice in this City Government. The more you know doesnt always mean you are informed. It only means that you now know too much.

Mike
Mike

The title mentions nothing about her sexual preference, and it is mentioned only in passing at the beginning of the article. Her gender on the other hand, merely indicates that Az's development community is a bunch of good ol' boys. This doesn't mean that she wouldn't have had the same issues if she were a male that just wasn't part of the 'network'... I think you're overreacting on this headline.

hammbone
hammbone

What did any of this have to do with her gender or sexual preference ,as the title of the article suggests? Come on now, don't resort to that to gain readership!

Fly on the Wall
Fly on the Wall

I've worked in some of the largest law firms contract law divisions in the city and the collusion between the attorneys, developers and city planning and zoning is shocking. These people are disgusting and the State's Attorney General should be looking into busting this whole cabal up ASAP!

They've even got the one non-profit that should have been advocating against overdevelopment of our desert mountains in their pocket, the Desert Botanical Garden (aka Mums the Word).

 
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