Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fence beside airstrip at root of dispute. Guadalupe County officials accused of RICO violations.

This wire fence erected beside Windsock Lane in the Zuehl Flying Community has prompted several suits to be filed by New Braunfels resident David Goad, whose daughters own a fenced off parcel that formerly held a fueling station. The community's homeowners association erected the fence to block non-members, including Goad, from using the roads and small airstrip in the subdivision in western Guadalupe County.

ZUEHL — A fence erected in 2008 beside a rural airfield here in southwest Guadalupe County has spurred a rash of lawsuits, the latest of which accuses dozens of county officials of engaging in organized crime and seeks $31 million in damages.

The defendants deny the allegations made by New Braunfels resident David Goad, whose prior self-drafted court pleadings led to his being declared a vexatious litigant.

Goad filed the newest suit in U.S. District Court on Dec. 8 on behalf of two daughters who own a 1-acre lot that once housed a fueling station used by the Zuehl Flying Community.

The rustic subdivision of hangars, homes and potholed streets developed since the 1980s flanks a runway built as an auxiliary airfield for Randolph AFB during World War II.

Goad claims the fence installed by the property owners association illegally blocks access from the lot to subdivision roads, taxiways and the 3,000-foot airstrip. The fence runs along the edge of a portion of Windsock Lane that is largely undeveloped.

The association says the Goad parcel lies outside the platted subdivision, so they can bar access to roads and the airstrip.

Goad's suit also asserts that association members conspired with county officials to deprive Goad of his rights, and to have him and witnesses he called at prior hearings arrested.

“This is the largest case of RICO filed in the history of this country,” he said, referring to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Guadalupe County Sheriff Arnold Zwicke said deputies have repeatedly been called in “the ongoing battle” at the airstrip.

Besides the fence being cut, feuding among factions includes reports of threats, attempts to run people down, guns shot over people's heads and interference with aircraft.

“If law enforcement doesn't side with (Goad), then you become the enemy,” said Zwicke, who's lost track of how many times Goad has sued him.

Assistant Guadalupe County Attorney Robert Etlinger, also a suit defendant, called Goad's claims “absurd.”

“He's attempting to rehash everything that got thrown out of court last time,” he said.

Records show U.S. District Judge Fred Biery dismissed a similar Goad suit in 2009 because Goad lacked standing to bring the case since the lot in dispute was owned by his minor daughters, and he doesn't have custody of them.

The girls now are adults, but Robert L. Wilson III, the association's lawyer, doubts they are willing parties to the new suit.

Last week, Wilson alerted the federal court that State District Court Judge Michael Peden in 2010 declared Goad a vexatious litigant, meaning the court found Goad had filed suits in which he was unlikely to prevail.

Peden prohibited Goad from filing new litigation in state court without getting an administrative judge's approval, or posting $50,000 bond for any defendant.

Wilson is also asking the federal court to declare Goad a vexatious litigant, noting he “has engaged in eight unsuccessful forays into litigation and appeals since 2008.”

If that occurs, posting bond could prove costly, since Goad's latest suit names more than 120 defendants, including 95 “John Does” with the sheriff's department or the appraisal district.

Goad contends that the lot he bought in 2007 had unfettered access to the road, taxiways and airstrip for decades before the subdivision was created, establishing a prescribed easement for public use that can't be revoked.

That view is backed by Austin consultant Richard J. Wheeler, whom Goad hired as an expert witness.

But defendant Fred Hall, a former president of the property owners association, said the lot was the subject of a reciprocal easement under which the fueling station operator was given temporary access to subdivision roads and the airstrip.

That easement lapsed when the fuel tanks were removed, said Hall, who estimated the association has spent more than $100,000 defending itself against Goad's claims.

If Goad's daughters want access to the roads and runways, they need only to have their landlocked lot platted, become dues-paying members of the association and follow its rules, Hall said.

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