Two residents of unincorporated Pima County have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Town of Marana, its town attorney, the police chief, seven police officers and others, alleging their civil rights had been infringed through unlawful arrest.
Steven J. Blomquist and Sharyl V. Cummings, husband and wife, are seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages for the alleged violation of Blomquist's civil rights stemming from his Nov. 13 arrest for trespassing and disorderly conduct at McClintock's Restaurant in Saguaro Ranch, and his subsequent incarceration in Pima County Jail.
Named in the lawsuit are the town of Marana, town attorney Frank Cassidy and his wife, police chief T. P. Tometich and his wife, police sergeant Tim Brunenkant and his wife, police officers Bennett, Ritter, Fane, Williams Montgomery and Roberto (last name unknown) and their wives, as well as unnamed town officials.
Attorney Stephen M. Weeks of Weeks & Laird, who represents Blomquist and Cummings, said it is common to name wives in a lawsuit because Arizona is a community property state.
The incident that triggered the arrest and subsequent lawsuit, Weeks said, occurred on Nov. 13, when Blomquist walked the route of an easement abandoned by the town earlier in the year, then mounted the steps to the patio of McClintock's, where he sat down at a table. Blomquist contends that McClintock's is built partially on the abandoned public easement, and that Marana had no right to abandon it in the first place.
The complaint states that Blomquist was greeted cordially by McClintock's staff and served a beer, which was later taken away from him after telephone calls were made to unknown parties and to 9-1-1. Shortly thereafter, police officers Bennett and Ritter arrived.
Bennett spoke with McClintock's staff and later arrested Blomquist, handcuffed him and sent him to jail.
Further, the complaint alleges that police chief Tometich, Sgt. Brunenkant and officer Roberto each played a role in improperly ordering Blomquist's arrest. The other three police officers are named because they were the officers who had previously arrested, but not incarcerated, Blomquist for trespassing on the abandoned easement.
"I committed no act giving rise to a claim of disorderly conduct," Blomquist insisted in public remarks to the Marana Town Council on Tuesday. "Instead of trying the criminal matter here, or in Oro Valley, Marana is forum shopping. This time, they want Pima County Justice Court to rule on the matter – in large part because it will be more expensive to defend than in justice court.
"All I have to say is shame on you."
Rodney Campbell, Marana's public information officer, said the town had received the complaint, and that town attorney Cassidy declined to comment on it because he is named in the lawsuit.
Campbell noted what he called "several inaccuracies" in the complaint.
"Blomquist has been told before by the restaurant staff that he's not welcome on the property," Campbell said. "His contention is that it is a public easement, while our stance is that it is not public property."
Campbell pointed out the persons who are individually named in the complaint would be represented by an attorney for the town.
"We will forward this complaint to our insurer, Southwest Risk, and they will choose an attorney to represent everyone named in the complaint," he said. "There's no validity to the claim made that officers will not be covered by the town insurance."
Attorney Weeks pointed out that Marana itself, as a town entity, is immune from punitive damages, but that the other defendants are not immune.
"Some people believe the damages will be a very high number — seven figures or higher," Weeks said. "It could conceivably be in the millions, if not tens of millions, or it could also be zero."
Angry words when lawsuit presented to town council
By Dave Perry, The Explorer
Angry words were exchanged Dec. 1, when people upset with the Town of Marana's actions on a contested easement in the Tortolita Mountains told council members what they thought.
"All I have to say is shame on every one of you," said Steven Blomquist, who has filed a civil lawsuit against Marana and some of its employees with his wife Sharyl Cummings, claiming constitutional violations and false arrests for trespassing on the easement.
Blomquist's criticisms were widely sprayed, toward the council, administration, staff, Town Manager Gilbert Davidson and Police Chief Terry Tometich. He angrily, quickly read prepared remarks to the council, criticizing its actions of May 21 to "sneak in" an abandonment of the easement.
"You disgraced yourselves, you disgraced the position you hold, you betrayed the trust given to you by the people who elected you," Blomquist said. "Not one of you acted ethically. And when it came time to vote, not one of you could face, eye to eye, those members of the public who had implored you to act fairly and in the public's interest."
Blomquist accused the town of "catering to a bankrupt developer," Saguaro Ranch's Stephen Phinny, over the contest of an easement in the Tortolita Mountains.
Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler, who had exchanged words with Tim Blowers moments before, asked Blomquist if he lived in the town. Blomquist would not respond. "You want to pick a fight with me now?" he asked.
"We believe we must now stand up for our constitutional rights," said Cummings, who began to hand copies of the lawsuit to everyone on the dais.
"Give them to the clerk," Mayor Ed Honea said.