Twelve minutes late is too late.
That’s the lesson following a Spokane County Superior Court decision determining the rightful owner of 80 acres of state park property sold in a surplus land auction in May. Judge Neal Q. Rielly found that the state was wrong to award the land to a bidder whose offer arrived 12 minutes after the deadline.
Nancy Johnson, who lives next to the land on Holcomb Road near Mount Spokane, had bid $280,000. She wants to maintain it as conservation land. Her bid was the only one received by the State Parks and Recreation Commission by the 2 p.m. deadline on May 31, according to the court.
The parks commission initially awarded Johnson the land, then reversed itself after Jay Mehring appealed, saying his $291,299 bid had been submitted on time. Mehring took possession of the land and filed an application with Spokane County to clear trees in preparation for development.
In his decision, Judge Rielly found that Mehring’s bid was received by the parks commission at 2:12 p.m. Though it was delivered to the state’s mailroom earlier, the judge did not find that constituted delivery to the commission headquarters. State employees violated procedures by opening the bid, Rielly wrote.
“The Mehring bid should not have been considered,” Rielly wrote in his Dec. 21 decision.
When Johnson heard the news, she was shocked almost speechless. “Oh my god,” she said, choking up. “I don’t know what to say.”
But in the next breath, she asked what would happen next as logging already has begun on the land, and roads have been cut in preparation for development. Johnson’s attorney, Steve Eugster, said his next step will be to sue Mehring for damaging the property. Mehring intended to subdivide the land, clear part of it and create two to eight homesites, according to Spokane County documents.
“We’ll have to go up there and count the stumps,” Eugster said. “They’ll have to restore what they did. We warned them that they would be sued if they were to take timber off the property.”
Mehring, contacted by phone, said his attorney advised him not to comment. That attorney, Michael Maurer, could not be reached for comment. The state attorney general’s office also declined to comment, saying the decision was under review.
The land was sold as part of a parks commission initiative to take inventory of property and sell parcels that do not fit recreation or wildlife habitat priorities. The money raised is used to purchase more-desirable pieces of land.