A Tale of Two California Cities

Well, one is a county. In Northern California, Lake County requests consultation with the Robinson Rancheria regarding the potential impact of a tribal gas station project, on a nearby wetlands restoration area. According to a local news report, County and Tribal leaders have met to elicit

responses to the county's concerns, which included stormwater drainage, grading during the rainy season and the impact on the wetlands.

[T]he tribe has agreed to sit down with county officials – at a date and time yet to be determined – to discuss the Middle Creek Restoration Project, in which the tribe has been a partner in the past.

Lake County invokes a 1999 gaming compact between the Tribe and the State of California, but it is doubtful that dispute resolution provisions in that tribal-state agreement extend to any third-party.

In any event, the Tribe and County are consulting with each other -- government to government, neighbor to neighbor -- as they should. The citizens of Robinson Rancherie, the City of Nice and Lake County should be pleased with their elected leaders, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, in Southern California, the City of Temecula has sued its neighbor, the Pechanga Band Luiseno Indians in U.S. District Court.

Temecula sued the tribe over a dispute that centers on a March agreement with the tribe.

The city contends the pact called on the tribe to pay the city at least $2 million annually to cover the city's casino-related expenses, such as police service.

The city expected the $2 million in June. But the tribe said the pact was not final until talks with Riverside County concluded.

The City of Temecula now faces an order from the District Court judge requiring it to show cause regarding why the court has jurisdiction over the city's money damages claim against the Tribe. Temecula also invokes dispute resolution language in a tribal-state compact, despite the city not being a party to that agreement.

Under prior California federal district court decisions, holding that tribal-state compact dispute resolution language does not extent to third parties, Temecula should prepare to be dismissed out of court.

It is unfortunate that Temecula refuses to act like an adult government, by litigating, rather than consulting in good faith, with its tribal neighbor. The Riverside County taxpayers deserve better.

Gabriel "Gabe" Galanda is a partner at Galanda Broadman PLLC, of Seattle, an American Indian majority-owned law firm.  He is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Covelo, California.  He can be reached at 206.691.3631 or gabe@galandabroadman.com, or via galandabroadman.com.