Road war heats up at Pila’a

PILA’A — A jury-trial date is set in a lawsuit that involves a road that led to the largest U.S. environmental fine against a single landowner.

James Pflueger is scheduled to go to Fifth Circuit Court Jan. 8 in a property-damage case filed against him by Richard and Amy Marvin, along with relatives and friends.

In their civil suit filed in 2002, the Marvins seek general, special and punitive damages caused by Pflueger’s construction activities for a subdivision that was to be built on roughly 400 acres he owns above Pila’a Bay.

The Marvins claim that Pflueger bulldozed dirt onto a plateau located above their house. The Marvins allege that heavy rainstorms in November 2001 turned the dirt into mud, and that the mud slid down the road and damaged their beachfront property.

However, there is a twist to the case.

Pflueger filed a counterclaim in 2003, alleging that the Marvins hired a contractor to cut, grade and widen the road that is located on his land, and that they did so without letting him know what they were doing.

The resulting construction funneled the mud toward the Marvins’ property, Pflueger claims.

He also alleges the Marvins did not get a permit for that work.

Joe O’Hagan lived on Pflueger’s property for 34 years. He contends that the road was a foot trail before it was turned into a road by the Marvins in 2000.

The road is steep in some places, and winds down the bluff several hundred feet.

“Everybody parked at the top of the bluff,” he said. “Everybody parked up there before the Marvins turned the foot trail into the road,” said O’Hagan on Thursday.

He said that the mud came down the illegal road and damaged the Marvins’ property.

“Its true that the mud came from Jimmy’s operation,” said O’Hagan. “The mud had to go somewhere. It went down the Marvin road.”

Court records show that the Marvins tried to discredit O’Hagan.

In 2003, O’Hagan was charged with terroristic threatening and with assaulting Richard “Rick” Marvin at a surfing contest. The two misdemeanor charges were dismissed last year.

Papers in that criminal case show that he was an important witness to the lawsuit the Marvins filed against Pflueger.

“I know how the path got made into a road,” said O’Hagan.

O’Hagan said that he left Kaua’i after living on the island for 36 years. He filed a defamation suit against the Marvins last year.

According to papers in that case, O’Hagan claims that the Marvins called him a “pervert,” that he planned to sexually assault their daughters, that he is insane, a danger to the community, and that he is Pflueger’s “hit man” and an “enforcer.”

He said that he is back on the island to clear his name.

“I left because they were going after me and making me the bad guy that I was not. My uncle passed away, and it was a blessing to get away from these people who wanted to put me in jail,” he said.

O’Hagan pointed out that he worked as a hairdresser. “Clipper Joe,” is his nickname, and that is how many people know him.

“They told lies about me,” said O’Hagan. “You walk into a store, and mothers take their daughters away like I’m a pervert. That’s not nice,” he said. “You feel really hurt. You feel shame.”

He said that he was never employed by Pflueger. He pointed out that he had an informal agreement with Pflueger to open and close gates, and to watch out for anyone growing marijuana.

O’Hagan said that the Marvins are trying to get as much money from Pflueger as possible.

“If you know somebody has a lot of money, you are going to figure out what you can do to get it from him. It turned into greed.”

He said that he is not getting paid to defend Pflueger.

“I’d probably be back in Pennsylvania living well if he is paying me. He is not giving me money. He is not trying to bribe me,” said O’Hagan.

He pointed out that he was close to the Marvins, but not anymore because of litigation.

Amy Marvin said that the property-damage case is in mediation. She pointed out that she was not at liberty to say how much they are asking for.

“We are bound by confidentiality,” she said on Friday.

Wesley Ching, Pflueger’s attorney in the property-damage lawsuit, confirmed that the suit is in mediation.

Amy Marvin said that their damages have increased since the suit was filed nearly five years ago.

“We’ve discussed selling the property,” she said, to Pflueger.

She alleged that O’Hagan is not credible.

“He was hired by Pflueger to harass us,” she said.

She claimed that O’Hagan is Pflueger’s “hit guy,” and Pflueger’s “hired thug.”

She claimed that Pflueger “ruined our lives at a lot of levels.”

“Everything he’s done to us was in retaliation for reporting him to the Environmental Protection Agency for environmental crimes,” she said.

In a March settlement, Pflueger agreed to pay $2 million in federal Clean Water Act fines along with spending $5.3 million to prevent erosion and restore streams at areas damaged by the construction activity.

The federal fines were on top of 2005 state fines of $500,000 for pleading guilty to 10 felony counts, and $4 million for runoff damage done to Pila’a Bay.

The federal settlement was announced the week before the Ka Loko Reservoir dam broke.

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