Town of Oro Valley
Courtesy photo

The Town of Oro Valley has agreed to pay $260,000 as part of a settlement agreement in the case of Guerena v. Pima County.

Of that amount, the town will be responsible for a $100,000 insurance deductible to insurer Southwest Risk.

Vanessa Guerena initiated the lawsuit against several Arizona agencies after members of the Pima Regional SWAT team – which included officers from the Oro Valley Police Department – entered their home in May 2011 as part of a drug and weapons investigation on her husband, Jose Guerena.

During that raid, Jose Guerena was shot and killed by officers while he was brandishing an assault rifle, though it was later determined the weapon was never fired, and the safety still on. In Oct. 2011, Guerena’s wife claimed a wrongful death suit, alleging officers entered the home without announcing themselves and claiming that her husband retrieved his weapon with the intent of self-defense before being shot 22 times by officers.

The original lawsuit against Pima County was for $20 million. While a settlement was reached earlier this month, Guerena’s lawyer is withholding details of how much is being awarded, as approval is still needed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors and the court. 

Attorney Marshall Humphries has been working on the town’s behalf at the Pima County Superior Court.

Council voted unanimously to pay the insurance deductible.

In other business, councilman Joe Hornat responded to a column written in The Explorer by fellow councilmember Mike Zinkin, who criticized the majority of council for voting against a measure that would examine the potential implementation of a renter’s tax.

Hornat, who asserted that Zinkin’s examination of the budget items discussed in the column were inaccurate, also argued the tax would be unfair to those looking to rent in Oro Valley.

“To sit here and say we are going to tax renters and renters only – which includes homes… doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I could never support a tax that I wasn’t also party to. This is not Washington. We don’t take care of ourselves at the expense of everybody else.”

Zinkin’s column also claimed that the majority of council was “shortsighted” for failing to consider the tax, which would create a new revenue stream and thus money for additional town services and opportunities.

“To be called shortsighted,” said Hornat, “I would say that whoever the minority was (in the renter’s tax discussion vote) is shortsighted. I would go so far as to say they are blind.”

Zinkin rebutted that the proposed renter’s tax was not one that would be imposed by him or those other council members who suggested a discussion on it, but by the people of Oro Valley who would have to vote on it.

Earlier into the evening, council examined a proposal to reintroduce the bighorn sheep in the Santa Catalina Mountains, ultimately approving the measure unanimously.

With approval, 30 bighorn sheep will be transplanted into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness this fall. The overall goal is to have more than 100 bighorn sheep introduced over three consecutive years.

The once popular big horn sheep population that inhabited the Santa Catalina Mountains dissipated in the late 1980s for unknown reasons.

The reintroduction comes with an increased likelihood of success, as professionals will be monitoring the sheep through the use of Global Positioning System collars that will provide real time information about location and any mortality events that may occur.

The technology is expected to cost about $600,000 during the next three years. The money is being raised through public and private fundraisers.

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