Gail Palmer, who has been at the center of a property battle with Grand Canyon University for more than a year, can finally claim a small legal victory.
On Oct. 16, GCU moved to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit it filed against Palmer in April 2022. By Nov. 21, the yearlong case came to an amicable end as it was officially dismissed by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge.
The suit alleged that Palmer’s four rental properties abutting the university were causing safety concerns. Attorneys for the university pointed to “recurring and virtually unchecked criminal activity” that had flourished in recent years on Palmer’s land and posed “a grave risk” to students.
"GCU brought the lawsuit against Mr. Palmer in order to ensure the safety and welfare of our students, faculty and staff and force him to take reasonable actions to abate the ongoing criminal activity at his property," university spokesperson Bob Romantic told Phoenix New Times.
Palmer and his attorney, Jordan Greenman, said the suit was a new tactic to bully Palmer into selling his property to the university.
“It’s our belief that they’re trying to bully him into selling the property,” Greenman told Phoenix New Times in February. “Which is what they tried to do many times in the past — and failed.”
GCU has spent millions buying up land around its campus over the past decade, converting empty lots into athletic fields and flipping old apartment buildings into student housing. In 2016, the school bought the 4.65 acres that Periwinkle Mobile Home Park sits on and created a public backlash when it forced residents to move.
Although the university has made several offers to buy Palmer's property, he has refused to sell. The 84-year-old is known as "Cow Guy" to many GCU students thanks to the cows he keeps on the property.
According to Greenman, the dismissal ensures that Palmer is able to keep his property and continue to manage all aspects of it.
Although GCU didn't wind up with control over Palmer's property, Romantic said the suit was a success because there have been no criminal incidents in the area in the past 18 months. He also added that the university would refile if conditions returned to their previous state.
"Given that, GCU decided to drop the case but will not hesitate to bring it again if we feel the activity on Mr. Palmer’s property puts our students, faculty and staff at risk," Romantic said.
Greenman said he and Palmer are ready for any future legal battles.
"GCU often gets what they want, and they're very upset that they couldn't buy out Mr. Palmer's property. It's right in the middle of campus, and if you look on all sides of the block, they purchased almost every property on Colter Street," Greenman said. "I wouldn't be surprised if GCU brings up more faulty litigation and more claims just to harass Mr. Palmer."