Grand Jury Indicts Rim Trail Water Manager

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An indictment handed down by a Gila County grand jury charges Rim Trail Domestic Water Improvement District manager Joseph Knoell with three felonies related to the operation of that system.

Knoell, who says he has been asked to stay on as manager of the district by both the water district board and some Rim trail residents, faces charges of fraudulent schemes and artifices, theft, and misuse of public money for acts allegedly committed between December 1998 and December 2000. After hearing evidence and testimony, the grand jury voted 14-0 to return the fraud and misuse of public funds counts and 13-0 with one abstention to return the theft count.

Knoell was arraigned Monday in Gila County Superior Court in Globe after Judge Robert Duber refused a continuance requested by Knoell's attorney, Barry Standifird. Knoell's next court appearance will be a case management conference scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday, May 6, in Globe.

County Attorney Daisy Gilker, who presented the case to the grand jury, says the charges involve the misappropriation of at least $10,000 of water district funds.

"The county is basically alleging that Mr. Knoell used or took Rim Trail funds for his own purpose," Gilker said. "We have obtained records that we believe show items were purchased for personal use rather than for district purposes."

In a written statement Standifird said Knoell is "innocent of the charges in every respect," and that he expects new information presented to the county attorney's office "will result in a quick dismissal of this matter."

Knoell told the Roundup the indictment is politically motivated and that he did only what his superiors told him to do.

Gilker confirmed that Knoell recently provided additional evidence that is currently being reviewed by her office.

Rim Trail, officially known as Rim Trail Mountain Club, is located off Houston Mesa Road between Whispering Pines and Washington Park. Subdivided in 1946, the community is comprised of 139 lots and about 90 homes and cabins, but has just 15 full-time residents.

A political campaign last year between Lionel "Marty" Martinez, then incumbent chairman of the board of that water district, and Steve Emerson, a Rim Trail property owner running against Martinez, brought to light charges of noncompliance with environmental testing requirements and financial irregularities.

Martinez narrowly won re-election over Emerson, and then resigned from the board.

Martinez, his successor as chairman, Harry Jones, and board member Tom Melcher, who is also the undersheriff for Gila County, did not return phone calls from the Roundup.

The third board member, Harry McFate, lives in the Valley and could not be reached for comment.

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