Criminal trespass cases against three Marana residents who were cited for trespassing on a former public easement abandoned by the town have been transferred from Marana to Oro Valley Municipal Court.
Jane Fairall, Marana deputy town attorney, filed a motion with Marana Municipal Court last week to transfer the cases against Stephen Blomquist, Sharyl Cummings and Theresa Chamberlain to Oro Valley because of a civil lawsuit the three, along with Timothy Blowers, had filed against Marana.
"If someone is filing a civil lawsuit against us on the same issues, we always try to transfer the case, and vice versa, Oro Valley does the same thing," Fairall said. "It's not a common occurrence, but when there's a pending lawsuit related to the criminal case, we transfer."
Fairall added there's also the potential that town employees could be called as witnesses, and that the town preferred to have another jurisdiction hearing the criminal cases so there's no perception of a conflict of interest.
Blomquist and Cummings were first cited for criminal trespass when they used the abandoned easement on May 27, and again two evenings later. Their third arrest, along with Chamberlain, came on June 1. Blomquist and Cummings had been scheduled to appear in Marana Municipal Court June 16 and 17 to answer their criminal trespassing charges, while Chamberlain was scheduled for June 17 to answer her charges.
After the Marana town council abandoned the easement, the town attorney had directed that "effective immediately, anyone walking or driving as a member of the public on the portions of the easement located within the town limits of the Town of Marana will be treated as a trespasser, and will be subject to arrest and prosecution at the discretion of the investigating officer."
The civil lawsuit, filed by Blomquist, Cummings, Chamberlain and Blowers, asked the court for a declaratory judgment "determining the easement is still a valid public easement for ingress and egress by members of the public," as well as for a permanent injunction prohibiting the town from citing members of the public for trespassing resulting from attempted use of the easement. The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Stephen Weeks.
The four also are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Saguaro Ranch owner Stephen Phinny, who they say began blocking access to the easement in early 2008.
Weeks pointed out the easement, essentially a loop road, has been used since the 1960s by the property owners in the area to get into what is now Tortolita Mountain Park. Another access to the park is off Como Road on the east side of the Saguaro Ranch development.