The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District has filed a lawsuit against a board member over a conflict about a reservoir planned for northwest Omaha.
The NRD is seeking a court injunction against board member Scott Japp, who last year proposed a deal to acquire mineral rights from landowners at the site of a new reservoir near 168th and Fort Streets.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Douglas County District Court, the NRD alleges that Japp misused his public office and access to official information for financial gain for himself or his associates. The lawsuit also alleges Japp engaged in deceptive trade practices, saying the company he represented was false.
The conflict stems from November, when Japp sent a letter to landowners in the path of the Dam Site 15A project seeking a lease deal.
Japp had opposed the reservoir. But the board approved a $43 million bond issue last year to pay for it.
Now, the NRD is negotiating property buyouts with landowners. Japp has reviewed documents that aren't public related to the project and has said he doesn't think the district is offering them a fair price.
In the letter to landowners, Japp said he represents a company, Canudigit LLC, seeking lease agreements to quarry topsoil on their property. He did not identify himself as a board member.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges Japp sought to increase the NRD's cost of acquiring land for the project. The lawsuit called his actions a violation of his “sworn duty to faithfully and impartially perform the duties of the office of natural resources district director.”
The NRD said in January it would seek a court injunction against Japp. At the same time, the NRD board voted to ask the Douglas County Attorney's Office to investigate whether Japp acted properly. Both actions were approved on 7-2 votes. Japp and Curt Frost, who represents northern Douglas County, voted no. Japp has dismissed the NRD’s complaints as “nothing but harassment.”