Sirphey Sues Los Alamos County, Others In U.S. District Court


A lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque by Sirphey, LLC, its Managing Director Prashant Jain and Communications Director/Officer Cortni Nucklos against 24 defendants including Los Alamos County listed as follows:

PAUL ANDRUS, County’s Community Development Director

MICHAEL ARELLANO, individually and in his capacity as the County’s Chief Building Official


HARRY BURGESS former County Manager

DENISE CASSELL, former County Human Resources Manager 





PHILIP KUNSBERG, individually and as Co-owner/Manager of the Central Park Square

J. ALVIN LEAPHART, individually and in his official capacity as County Attorney and Attorney for its Council and Boards

LOS ALAMOS BOARD OF APPEALS and its individual members, Terry Priestley, Philo Shelton and Randall Ryti;

ADRIENNE LOVATO, in her official capacity as an employee of the County’s Community Development Department 

TERRY PRIESTLEY, individually and in his capacity as a member of the County Board of Appeals


BARBARA RICCI in her official capacity as manager of the County’s Records Information Management Office

RANDALL RYTI, individually and in his capacity as a member of the County Council and as a member the County’s Board of Appeals

TERRY SALAZAR, individually and in his capacity as Property Manager of Central Park Square

SARA SCOTT, individually and in her capacity as a member of the County Council and in her capacity as a member of the County’s Board of Appeals

SMITH’S FOOD & DRUG CENTERS, INC., a foreign, for-profit corporation incorporated in Ohio;

PHILO SHELTON, individually and in his capacity as a member of the County’s Board of Appeals

PRIORITY PROPERTIES, a Missouri company operating in New Mexico whose corporate status inNew Mexico is uncertain;

LARRY VALDEZ, in his official capacity as an employee of the County’sCommunity Development Department

STEVE WALLER, individually and in his capacity as maintenance custodian of the Mari Mac Shopping Center and as an agent of Priority Properties and Mike Margiotta, Manager of the Mari Mac Shopping Center and also, as an agent of Smith’s Food & Drug Centers, Inc.

The plaintiffs (Sirphey) are seeking damages of $5 million from the defendants caused by the their violation of the plaintiffs’ Constitutional rights under U.S. Constitution, Federal Law, Constitutional Rights under the New Mexico Constitution, New Mexico State Statutes, the Los Alamos County Code of Ordinances and various common law violations.

Issues being raised in the 117-page complaint include:

  • Abusive Conduct, False Accusations & Retaliation
  • Previously Passed Inspection Reversed
  • Illegal Search & Invasion of Privacy                                                                       
  • Disparate Treatment                                                                                 
  • Red Tag Issued
  • No Predicate Inspection or Subsequent Notice       
  • Abuse of Discretion         
  • False Representation – Arellano                                               
  • Motives & Malice Aforethought – Arellano 
  • Motives of Other Government Actors
  • Motives of Non-Government Actors
  • Government Delay Forming a Board of Appeals
  • Appellate Hearings & Procedural Scheduling Order
  • Appellate Hearings – Conflicts of Interest – Scott
  • Appellate Hearings – Conflicts of Interest – Ryti
  • Appellate Hearings – Conflicts of Interest – Leaphart
  • Appellate Hearings – Arellano Disqualifying Criminal Activity
  • Negligent Supervision                                                                               
  • Irregularities during the Appeal
  • Appeal from Board to Council
  • Appeal from Council to District Court                                     
  • Second Series of Hearings on Remand & Open Meetings Act Violations
  • Private Enforcement of the OMA in Second Series of Appeals from Board to Council
  • Decisions of Board & Council Unsupported by Evidence
  • Second Appeal from Council to District Court
  • Ordinance Governing Appeals Unconstitutional
  • Inspection of Public Records Requests                    

Some three dozen claims are spelled out in the complaint. Sirphey and Los Alamos County have been in a First Judicial Court battle since October 2020 when Sirphey filed an appeal notice against the County and then Arellano in connection with a ruling by the County Appeals Board. The Board found that a stop work issued by Arellano in November 2019  at the proposed future home of Unquarked at 813 Central Avenue was not arbitrary or capricious and did not violate the law. Jain subsequently appealed the Board’s ruling to the County Council which upheld it. That appeal was remanded to Council and the Appeals Board based on the fact that the Sirphey was not provided with findings of fact and conclusions of law by the County. The second appeal was also upheld by the Appeals Board and the County Council.

The County retained outside counsel for the District Court case and there have been multiple hearings over the last several months, culminating in Judge Jason Lidyard ordering sanctions against the County’s attorney. See

For prior coverage of the Sirphey situation, see also: