George Nackard's company charged with misdemeanor for illegally clearcutting property Updated Aug. 17, 2004
July 1 update: In today's Arizona Republic, reporter Dennis Wagner reports that George Nackard is now personally charged in the Chainsaw Massacre case, and could face up to six months in jail. Actually, somehow the story incorrectly talks about a Frank Nackard as the culprit, never mentioning George at all! Other than that, it is a pretty good story, and I know that the bit about Nackard being personally charged is no typo. At least they spelled my name correctly... The Republic will publish a correction. Dan R. Frazier
Read the Arizona Republic story here.
Consolidated Investment Company, Inc. a Flagstaff business owned by George Nackard, has been charged with a class 1 misdemeanor for clear-cutting six acres of its own property in violation of the city's land-use regulations. The crime is punishable by a fine of up to $20,000 and possible jail time. Because the property is actually two parcels, a fine of $40,000 is possible. Arizona Daily Sun reports have indicated fines could total nearly $50,000.
The property is located near Wal-Mart in west Flagstaff, near the busy intersection of Woodlands Village Blvd. and Beulah.
Detectives learned that Nackard paid an undocumented worker who speaks only Spanish $633 to use a chainsaw to cut half-way through 200-300 trees on the property. The trees were chainsawed half-way through in March. Weeks later, when some of the trees started to lean, and several blew over in strong winds, the vandalism was discovered. The City required that Consolidated Investment Company, Inc. remove all the damaged trees for safety reasons. The company complied, bulldozing the site to remove the stumps and all traces of the trees. All that remains is a denuded hillside, ripe for a mudslide. The City will also require that trees be replanted before the property is developed.
The illegal clear-cutting figured prominently in the May, 2004 City Council election. This election was one of the most heated and divisive in Flagstaff history. It set new records for the amount of money spent in a local election, and the Nackard's deserve a good deal of credit for that. During the period leading up to the Flagstaff City Council election, members of the Nackard family, including George Nackard, contributed significant amounts to the campaigns of Rick Krug, Eldon Kramer, and Citizens for Sensible Government. (Campaign finance info.) Many community members looked to George Nackard as the leading suspect in the clear-cutting case.
Months before the trees were cut, George Nackard tried to persuade the City to waive its tree-cutting rules to make possible the development of the property. Before the election, the mayor was quoted in a newspaper report as saying, "He'd ask me, 'Can you help me clear-cut those trees?' And I told him, 'There's no way George.'" Nackard had proposed a hotel and conference center for the site.
On May 18, city voters went to the polls. Many were outraged by what had come to be known as the "Chainsaw Massacre." Voters re-elected incumbent City Council members Al White, Karen Cooper and Kara Kelty, along with Mayor Joe Donaldson. These candidates were seen as moderate canditates concerned with preserving Flagstaff's character and quality of life. Meanwhile, voters defeated the pro-growth and pro-business candidates supported by the Nackards and their allies.
The hispanic wood cutter, who spoke to detectives and helped crack the case, may be eligible to claim a reward of more than $5,000. The fund was created by concerned residents hoping that the crime would be solved. Nackard is being less cooperative. In a recorded interview with detectives, he said that he had nothing to say. He told detectives, "See you in court." He also referred to the new city council members, who defeated his favored candidates, as "carpetbaggers," noting that he had lived in Flagstaff for 80 years. He added that Flagstaff could be a "boomtown" were it not for the current council.
Interestingly, George Nackard clear-cut another of his properties in 1991 to make way for Flagstaff's Target department store. According to an article that appeared in the Daily Sun on April 11, the clear-cutting in 1991 was legal, but controversial. The cutting occurred just weeks after the city council voted to approve new rules meant to preserve trees in the city. Nonetheless, the clear-cutting was not considered illegal, in part because the property had previously been zoned as commercial. The property stood vacant and treeless for more than two years before building began.
In June, Nackard pleaded innocent to the charges against him. He vowed to hold a press conference to tell his side of the story. The case is expected to go to trial soon.
-- Dan Frazier
Read the police report on the Chainsaw Massacre investigation.
Read about some of George Nackard's other legal battles, including a 1998 case he brought against the City of Flagstaff alleging a taking of one of his properties without compensation.
Read a brief history of the Nackard family in Northern Arizona.
Partial Nackard family tree.
Dan R. Frazier's Nack-saw cartoon. NEW (Posted July 1.)
Article by Jeff Tucker of the Arizona Daily Star from June 27, 2003 about the various proposals for a conference center in Flagstaff, with some interesting comments from George Nackard.
Search the Arizona Daily Sun archives for articles about this incident. You will have to pay to access articles online.
Photos of the property at the center of the controversy.
Below are links to letters to the editor about this incident that appeared in July 2004 in the Arizona Republic: