Canyon County

Canyon County highway commissioner ordered to jail over ‘public nuisance’ property

A tractor, semitrailer and several vehicles littered the property of John McEvoy in March.
A tractor, semitrailer and several vehicles littered the property of John McEvoy in March. Idaho Statesman file

First, Canyon County Magistrate F. Randall Kline congratulated John McEvoy for his Tuesday re-election. McEvoy will serve a fourth term on the Canyon Highway District board.

Then the judge lit into McEvoy, telling him he was an irresponsible landowner who over two decades had let his property south of Middleton become a junkyard filled with mounds of old tires, rusting vehicles, trailers, chunks of concrete and other items.

“You’ve thumbed your nose at the community. You’ve thumbed your nose at (the Canyon County office of) Development Services. You’ve thumbed your nose at your neighbors,” Kline said.

The Wednesday hearing was actually the second time McEvoy was sentenced for two misdemeanors: maintaining a public nuisance and failing to obtain a required building permit. He pleaded guilty to the violations in March 2015, but later asked to withdraw the pleas after objecting to any searches of his property that would come from them.

That request was refused and McEvoy was sentenced to 180 days of “reserved” jail time in April 2015. An appeal to the Idaho Court of Appeals maintained his conviction but returned the case to the magistrate level to resolve the ambiguous term “reserved.”

This time, Kline gave McEvoy 180 days in jail, then ordered him to serve 25 of them for now, suspending the rest. He told McEvoy to report to the Canyon County Jail at noon on June 1.

It will be up to jail officials to determine how the sentence will be served, Kline said. McEvoy could be eligible for work release or other options, the judge said.

McEvoy will also have to pay $400 in fines and serve four years of unsupervised probation.

“Four years is the time I think it will take to clean this mess up,” Kline said.

McEvoy said he would abide by the judge’s order and a separate settlement reached in a civil lawsuit filed by several of his neighbors. Last month, he and the neighbors agreed he had 18 months to clean up his Kcid Road property. If he doesn’t meet the deadline, he will owe them $100,000.

“I’m in the process of getting things cleaned up and disposed of properly,” McEvoy told the judge.

Deputy Canyon County Prosecutor Josh van Swearingen and several of McEvoy’s neighbors told Kline they had not seen any improvements at the cluttered property.

“There is junk piled on top of junk,” van Swearingen said.

Neighbor Randy Wood is the owner of a gravel business and said he must obtain permits and follow regulations. “One of my biggest complaints is that I follow the law and my neighbor doesn’t,” he said.

McEvoy previously told the Statesman that illness and other issues contributed to the problems around his property.

“I’ve been trying to cooperate for years,” he said earlier this year. “Some of those demands that were put up on me were not real. ... I have stuff, yes, but a lot of people have stuff.”

Van Swearingen was the one to recommend McEvoy serve 25 days — one for every year that McEvoy has allowed junk to accumulate, he said.

The prosecutor said the county first learned about the situation in 1991 and took initial action the following year. He said code enforcement officers bent over backward to encourage McEvoy to voluntarily comply.

Before he ended the hearing, Kline looked out at McEvoy and offered one last piece of advice.

“Please be a responsible citizen,” he said.

Contacted at home after the hearing, McEvoy said he thought the jail sentence was inappropriate. He said he was surprised at the media attention.

“It’s almost humorous to think this kind of case would gather this much attention. It looks like I’ll be on the front page in three papers,” he said.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell