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City code offender buys county cars

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By David Giuliani

Las Vegas resident Tony Ortega is known for acquiring inoperable cars and other junk and placing them on his properties around town — in violation of city ordinance.

Now, San Miguel County no longer wants to be a party to Ortega’s problems with the city.

Last week, the County Commission voted to sell excess surplus property — much of which are old county vehicles — to Ortega and Joseph Gomez. When the commission took up the issue of excess property, County Attorney Jesus Lopez immediately suggested that the county sell the property contingent on getting proof that the new owners will store the items in areas allowed by the city.

For decades, Ortega has obtained old cars from the county and other entities and placed them on his properties. In recent times, he has been clearing his Railroad Avenue properties of inoperable vehicles and other junk on orders from the city, but he has been moving them to his property along Interstate 25. Now the city is working to clear that land of junk.

Lopez said he liked Ortega and that Ortega was a distant cousin of Lopez’s wife, Caroline Lopez. But he said the county shouldn’t be a party to the problems created by Ortega.

“We need something in writing that the (surplus property) goes where it is lawfully allowed,” the attorney said, adding that the county shouldn’t “create more problems than it is solving.”

Commissioner Nicolas Leger said he appreciated Lopez’s concern but wondered if the county could enact such a requirement after it went out to bid to sell the property.

Lopez said that as long as money hadn’t changed hands yet, it was all right to add such a rule.

Leger said he saw Lopez’s point, saying that he, too, wanted to keep the junk problem from getting worse.

The commission unanimously agreed to sell the surplus property with Lopez’s suggested requirement, which applies to both Ortega and Gomez.

The two men must remove the items from county property within 45 days. That has been problematic for Ortega in the past.

Ortega couldn’t be reached for comment.