Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Arizona man who donated $100,000 to help the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps build a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border wants his money back.

James Campbell, a retired home builder who took out a $120,000 loan on his house to help build one mile of “Israel-style” fencing on private border land, is suing MCDC and its president, Chris Simcox, for fraud and breach of contract — saying there has been no work on the double-security fence he was promised.

The lawsuit was filed last week in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.

Mr. Campbell, an Air Force veteran, said he donated the money “so we never have to explain to future generations how we let our national security be placed at risk.” He described the contribution as a “significant portion of my retirement nest egg.”

But Mr. Campbell said he has seen no work on the fence that Mr. Simcox promised on the Palominas, Ariz., ranch of John and Jack Ladd since he made the donation in June 2006.

He said the 11 miles of fencing that MCDC says it has built consists of a five-strand barbed-wire range fence similar to what is already in place.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Campbell said he spoke on three occasions in early 2006 with Peter Kunz, MCDC fence project manager, and was assured that the Israel-style barrier would be built along 10 miles of the Ladd ranch. The lawsuit said the donation was made with the stipulation that it be used to purchase steel tubing for the fence.

But it said that by the groundbreaking on May 27, 2006, the fence was changed to traditional range fence.

“To date, MCDC has not constructed any ‘Israeli-style’ border fencing … in breach of agreement between it and Campbell,” the lawsuit said.

The Israel-style fence was the idea of a Pennsylvania-based advocacy group,, which proposed the construction of separate fences on both sides of the border, each 12 to 15 feet high and 40 to 50 yards apart. The fences would be separated by a roadway that would include motion sensors and would be protected by vehicle barriers and a ditch. Israel has used such fences in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in an attempt to prevent terrorist attacks.

Colin A. Hanna, who heads the group, did not criticize the MCDC effort but said his proposed Israel-style fence “certainly is a more robust design” that would better guard against illegal entry.

The lawsuit seek $1.2 million in damages and reimbursements from MCDC, Mr. Simcox and Mr. Kunz. It also names Diener Consultants, an organization involved in raising money for the fence project, and Declaration Alliance, a Virginia-based charity founded by conservative activist Alan Keyes, a fundraiser for MCDC.

Mr. Simcox has refused to return inquiries from The Washington Times but told the Sierra Vista, Ariz., Herald/Review he was “puzzled by the complaint.” He acknowledged that work on the fence had stalled but would begin again as soon as additional funds are raised. He has proposed raising $55 million.

Last week, Mr. Simcox fired the top leaders of MCDC after they sought a meeting to discuss his purported lack of financial accountability. Those fired included Bob Wright, deputy executive director; Bill Irwin, national operations officer; Greg Thompson, national training coordinator; and Stacey O’Connell, Arizona state chapter director.

The four, along with a dozen MCDC state chapter leaders, had sought to meet with Mr. Simcox in Phoenix over what they called a “serious” lack of financial accountability by MCDC, which set up observation posts on the U.S.-Mexico border to bring attention to rising illegalentries.

Mr. Simcox has come under fire in recent months over questions about how much money MCDC has raised since its April 2005 founding and where it has been spent.

Mr. Simcox has dismissed the criticism, calling it a product of “those who want to destroy us and the movement.”

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