Super Bowl V

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Morgan soon contacted the Tucson offices of Ogden Farrell, a Native American scientist turned environmental activist whose legal victories against seemingly overwhelming odds have been chronicled by 60 Minutes and Newsweek, among other media.

The politically savvy Farrell is best known locally for his successful effort to have an endangered amphibian species, the Arizona Lesser Salamander, reclassified as a reptile so it would fall under the protections of the Southwest Rare Reptile Preservation Act. In that case, a federal judge ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to reconfigure the flow of the San Pedro River to accommodate the newly classified reptile.

"Ogden has a proven track record winning these kinds of battles," says fellow environmental activist Will Brooks of the Riparian Defense Institute. "He convinced the entire Arizona congressional delegation that since the Lesser Salamander was four-legged and hairless, it met the definitions of the act. Even [just-retired representative] Bob Stump went along. The guy is good."

Added Brooks, "Ogden Farrell is the Joe Montana of environmentalists."

Constantly in demand, Farrell has held up or killed construction of dams, hospitals, malls and whole subdivisions.

Americans for Reasonable Wildlife (ARW), a conservative, industry-backed think tank, annually rates Farrell in its top 10 list of "public enemies." ARW director of communications W. Vernon Plummer (no relation to the Cardinals quarterback) says Farrell arguably has done more harm to American business interests than Osama bin Laden. "Farrell's name alone is enough to make a developer's sphincter tighten," Plummer says.

"Look, the only thing he hasn't squashed is a major sports stadium. I don't think it's an accident that Farrell is suddenly on the scene with just days to go before groundbreaking," Plummer adds. "If it wasn't the tortoises, it would be something else. A fucking cactus-eating gnat or something."

In fact, Farrell has been involved in many well-publicized national efforts to save species, including mammals (Preble's Meadow-Jumping Mouse, the Giant Kangaroo Rat, the Alabama Beach Mouse), reptiles (the Island Night Lizard, the Bluetail Mole Skink) and fish (the Slender Chub, the Pahrump Poolfish).

"He's a hired gun who jets from his fancy Tucson home base to wherever a dollar can be made," claims Plummer, adding that by taking advantage of EPA regulations, which award damages to environmental groups, Farrell netted more than $1 million last year. "Around here, we refer to him as a species we wish was endangered the yellow-bellied tax-sucker."

Farrell scoffs at Plummer's accusations, calling the ARW a tool of big business. "I'm hated by the kind of people who think wildlife is best served on a plate," counters the canny 45-year-old.

He noted that it isn't every day he's tipped to a major environmental scandal by an attractive cheerleader. "I have to say, I was a bit skeptical when she called. But when I saw her documents, I knew we had a first and goal from the one-yard line."

Though many residents wish the Cardinals themselves were slated for extinction the franchise, not the bird Farrell knows that others will react angrily to his legal challenge, which could hold up construction of the stadium indefinitely. But he hopes the controversy will educate the public about protected desert animals.

"It's time to draw a line in the sand," Farrell fumes. "No stadium should be built until we know what happened to those tortoises. The public has a right to know. Did Bidwill and his goon separate those five babies from their mother and toss them into Tempe Town Lake? For his sake, I hope he didn't. But I wouldn't be surprised if he gave them to other NFL owners as Christmas presents."

Without explanation, after the regular season ended, the Cardinals removed compliance officer Jantzen's name from the team's Web site.

And as for whistle-blower Jennifer Morgan, her sister cheerleaders say they don't expect her back after the off-season. "She's in seclusion. She knows this thing's going to blow sky-high after her allegations are heard in court," Farrell says.

Several legal experts consulted by New Times agreed that the seriousness of the situation cannot be overstated: If the allegations are proven in court, little-known NFL rules make it possible that the Bidwills will be forced to cede ownership of the team.

Says John Rocklin, a former federal prosecutor and sports law expert who has consulted with the NFL and the NBA, "I can't comment on specific cases. But hypothetically speaking, the Bidwills are in a world of legal hurt. The league has binding rules regarding the moral turpitude of owners. They're rarely invoked, but you put together the potential violation of state and federal environmental laws, a possible criminal conspiracy indictment and an eroded fan base, and you've got yourself an interesting scenario."

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Rubén Oman