By Linda Bentley | NOVEMBER 4, 2015

Johnny Ringo sues neighbors in effort to take their land

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Johnny Ringo

CAVE CREEK – Back in February, John Briganti, known locally as Johnny Ringo, filed a complaint against his neighbors Kurt and Terri Klimek in Maricopa County Superior Court along with an application for a temporary restraining order to prevent the Klimeks from removing or damaging structures and improvements made by Briganti that encroach on the Kimeks’ property.

Shortly after Briganti purchased his property in 1995, which is situated immediately north of the Klimeks’ property on Spur Cross Road, he graded and cleared land at the southern portion of what he apparently thought was his property and erected a horse training ring and other improvements.

The Klimeks, who purchased their property in 2013, contend the improvements encroach on their property.

According to the complaint, “Briganti likely acquired title to the disputed area through adverse possession prior to defendants’ acquisition of defendants’ property.”

Nonetheless, shortly after the Klimeks purchased the property they executed an easement agreement, which granted Briganti “a non-exclusive easement” for as long as Briganti owned the property, to let stand, maintain and repair the horse ring training area, which includes the fencing, shed and related improvements.

The Klimeks agreed to only use the easement for purposes not inconsistent with the rights granted to Briganti.

Some sort of dispute developed between the parties in February 2015 and Kurt Klimek conducted or ordered the destruction of some but not all the easement facilities, but expressed his intent to destroy more of the structures within the easement.

The easement agreement allows Briganti’s horse arena and appurtenances to remain on the Klimeks’ property along with full use of the facilities, for a payment of $1 per month ($12 per annum).

According to Briganti’s declaration, several years after he erected the horse facilities, Louie Majors, the former owner of the Klimeks’ property, told Briganti the horse ring and shed appeared to encroach on his property.

Briganti stated, “However, he did not object and we did not commission a survey to determine the exact location of the property line.”

After the Klimeks purchased the property, Briganti stated Kurt Klimek advised him the horse facilities encroached on his property.

Briganti said he consulted with Steve Wasserman, a long time friend and attorney, about the issue.

Wasserman subsequently prepared the easement agreement, which the Klimeks signed, and, according to Briganti, but declined their suggestion that they obtain a survey to determine the exact location of the property line.

In January 2014, Briganti said Kurt Klimek became upset when Briganti began constructing a hay shed on what Klimek insisted was his side of the property line.

Although Briganti apologized and removed all the construction materials, since that incident, Briganti said Klimek repeatedly insisted Briganti remove the horse facilities from his property and asserted the easement agreement was no longer valid.

Briganti said he told Klimek he has no right to damage or alter the horse facilities because of the easement and stated, “I also believe that I may have a claim for adverse possession of the property. Mr. Klimek is a large man who can be very intimidating. I am afraid for my safety if I have to confront him again.”

Klimek asserted Briganti breached the easement agreement when he attempted to erect new structures on the Klimeks’ property.

On June 2, 2015, the Klimeks, representing themselves, filed a counterclaim for relief.

The counterclaim avows Wasserman, an Ohio-licensed attorney, who is not licensed to practice law in Arizona, drafted the easement agreement and purportedly represented both parties.

The Klimeks also claim, for a full year before the agreement, they demanded a “hold harmless agreement” and proof of insurance, or, in the alternative, remove any and all structures Briganti had on the Klimeks’ property.

Based upon information provided by Briganti and Wasserman, the Klimeks believed the easement agreement was, in fact, a hold harmless agreement.

It wasn’t until April 2014 that Wasserman informed the Klimeks the agreement had been drafted “on behalf of and at Johnny’s expense” and did not draft the agreement with the intent to represent both parties.

According to the Klimeks, the agreement and associated encroachments, has limited their ability to use the property as collateral, prevented them from securing a mortgage and from selling the property.

The Klimeks contend the easement agreement is not a valid contract, they’ve never received any consideration and Briganti has neither paid them any monies nor provided them proof of liability insurance.

The Klimeks claim the shed and corral, which straddle the property line, have both been abandoned and violate the town of Cave Creek’s ordinances.

Back in March, Superior Court Judge John R. Hannah, Jr. granted Briganti’s application for a preliminary injunction in part.

Hannah enjoined the Klimeks “from damaging or destroying, without further order of the court, the property defined as easement facilities in the easement agreement …”

He further enjoined the defendants from entering the real property owned by Briganti, but stated they were not enjoined from entering the areas that are on their own property.

However, Hannah made it clear the easement does not give Briganti the right to occupy or improve any of the defendants’ property, except the cleared circular area and the shed, and may not treat the Klimeks’ property as his or put other improvements on the Klimeks’ property.

On Oct. 13, 2015, as the case goes through the discovery stage, Kurt Klimek sent an email to the mayor and council to advise them, during their last deposition with Briganti, they discovered he has been running a large commercial business out of his residential property for up to 20 years with neither a permit nor a business license.

Klimek said Briganti may have purchased one since the deposition but asked if Briganti will be penalized for the decade plus “he took advantage of the town.”

Klimek also stated Briganti wants the town to rezone, resurvey and remap the subdivision (Longview Estates) in which he lives and the subdivision (Loringwood Estates) directly to the north of his, at town expense.

His email proclaims Briganti has admitted to illegally renovating, modifying and building new structures on his property, to include water and electricity, without town permits or approval.

Klimek asked council if Briganti will be penalized for his continued, intentional abuse of the town and its resources.

Introducing himself to council as Briganti’s next door neighbor, Klimek advises council of the lawsuit and states, “Short version is Johnny is suing us in the superior court … with the intent of acquiring up to a full acre of our property, as he says his shed (abandoned) which is half on our property, and the temporary corral, which is half on our property, entitle him to ownership of our property.”

He goes on to say Briganti is not just attempting to obtain the six feet the shed is on or the 12-18 feet the abandoned corral is on, but wants up to a full acre and wants the town to completely replat both subdivisions.

While Klimek said he understood Briganti’s unpermitted outbuildings and “illegally built and renovated structures” were currently under some sort of investigation by the town, he also said it was their further understanding if the town were to give Briganti a “pass” on the matter his case may appear to have merit.

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