One problem may have been that the case was never given the attention it deserved. As Leonard notes, no fewer than 14 lawyers worked on the case at one time or another during its four years of litigation.

At trial, it became clear: The large number of lawyers on the case wasn't a show of manpower so much as benign neglect.

Suddenly, at trial, assistant city planner Steven Muenker was testifying to things that somehow he'd never previously explained. His boss, city planner David Richert, was equally expansive.

Through their testimony, it became clear that Gosnell hadn't misled Hayenga. That's because the city didn't even determine that the units were gone until 2000 — three years after Gosnell had sold her the property.

As it turns out, in 1995, another developer with a piece of the Pointe Tapatio project, Evans-Withycombe, had asked city planners to allow them to build 120 apartments on a piece of the property zoned commercial.

Suffice it to say, Evans-Withycombe is also a well-connected player in development circles. The city granted the request.

It wasn't until Hayenga showed up five years later that the city realized they'd messed up the Evans-Withycombe deal. City planners found no evidence in their files that they'd notified the neighbors, as required by law, that the Tapatio area was getting an increase in density.

How to get around that?

Instead of counting the Evans-Withycombe apartments as an increase of the cap, the planners decided to take the units allotted to other parts of the development (read: the acreage Gosnell had sold to Hayenga) and give them to the apartments instead.

That's why there'd been no units left for Hayenga. After the fact, city planners arbitrarily had decided how to count the Evans-Withycombe units.

Not normal procedure. But certainly enough to convince the jury that Gosnell was an innocent bystander.

The real kicker came when Gosnell himself testified.

The developer explained that, after Hayenga sued him, he'd gone down to look at city files and see what had happened.

It became clear to Gosnell in just 45 minutes that his units were transferred to Evans-Withycombe.

The question was implicit: Why didn't Hayenga give similar due diligence and research the city's files? More to the point, why wouldn't her lawyers do it before dragging everyone through years of litigation?

In any trial, no matter how badly things are going, it's easy to trick yourself into thinking you're winning. You know your story so well, and you truly believe it. It tends to make sense to you, even if the jury is lost.

Halfway through the trial, though, Miriam Hayenga knew she was in trouble. This was no quiet tinge of worry. This was a sense of utter disaster.

Hayenga recalls her attorney, Williams, turning to her and whispering, "Has anybody ever said anything like this to you?" Stunned, she replied that the testimony was news to her, too.

"At that point," Hayenga recalls, "he just put his head in his hands." (Williams says that never happened.)


The end came quickly — too quickly. As any good lawyer will tell you, a jury that's done deliberating in minutes is a jury that's going to rule for the defense. Even if the plaintiffs do an excellent job showing guilt, juries rarely like to convict without taking hours to go over the evidence and make sure their condemnation is correct.

Acquittal can happen in minutes.

And so it was for Bob Gosnell. Hayenga's partner, Mary Slaughter, recalls that after the jury had been sent to deliberate, Hayenga and Slaughter hopped in their car to make the 15-minute drive home to north central Phoenix, thinking they'd sit around for hours, or even days, waiting for a verdict.

They were still on the road home when Hayenga's phone rang. The jury was back.

Back in court that very hour, the two women sat in shock as the jury unanimously found in favor of Gosnell.

If the verdict stung, what came next was even worse.

Because she'd brought the suit, the judge socked her with Gosnell's attorney fees.

Instead of getting a payday, Miriam Hayenga owed Gosnell's attorney $600,000, plus $15,000 in court costs.


Hayenga made good on her debt. Her lawyers negotiated to get the bill down to $313,000 — still awful, but something she could pay.

She paid.

By this point, though, there's no way she is giving up the fight. "She's tenacious," Slaughter says. "She is just such a fighter."

She's hired two lawyers: One, Jeff Finley, to sue the city, and the other, David Leonard, to look into suing Beus Gilbert for malpractice.

Because the statute of limitations passed years ago, any claim against the city will be a difficult one. In order to win, Hayenga and her attorney must show "fraudulent concealment" on the part of the city — that staffers not only didn't play fair but actively covered up their wrongdoing before finally admitting the truth in trial.

But that begs an important question: Did the city actively withhold information? Or did Hayenga's attorneys (including the best zoning attorney in town) let her down by failing to ask the right questions?

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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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