Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Request For Feds To Intervene at Chukchansi. County Feeling Stress

Madera County supervisors want the federal government to intervene in the ongoing strife between factions of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians.
They agreed on Tuesday to send a letter to officials in Washington, D.C., seeking a definitive ruling about the tribe’s leadership.
Three factions have been fighting for the past 19 months, each claiming to be the tribe’s duly elected leaders. Last year, there was a near riot that required a massive regional and state law enforcement presence at the rancheria’s business complex.
“The sheriff and the county contend that if the tribe is unwilling or unable to solve its own dispute, it is the responsibility of the federal government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs to intervene,” the letter said. “We respectfully ask that you do so.”
Supervisors approved their letter Tuesday following a closed session and called for “assistance and intervention in resolving the internal dispute … concerning which tribal faction constitutes the true tribal government.”
The factions, headed by Nancy Ayala and Reggie Lewis, continue to assert that they are the rightful tribal council and accuse the other side of criminal wrongdoing.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs recognized December’s election, which placed Ayala and Lewis on the council, and ruled the third faction was out of power. In February, the council split into two factions when Ayala held a vote to dissolve the tribal council elected in December.
“They show no signs of resolving their differences,” the letter said. “The ongoing dispute over who represents the tribe has interfered with the ability of the Chukchansi Economic Development Authority to make its bond payments.”
In a ruling last week, a New York judge ordered both sides to cooperate when paying the tribe’s contractors and employees and bond payments for the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino.
Supervisors want federal intervention because each faction is accusing the other of wrongdoing and demanding Sheriff John Anderson take action. The atmosphere on the rancheria near Coarsegold remains tense, Madera County officials say.
The supervisors said the disputes are civil issues beyond the sheriff’s authority. A few weeks ago, Anderson asked supervisors to retain legal counsel with Indian law expertise after a Madera County judge ruled Anderson and his officers have to do a “till tap” at the casino, which would require the sheriff to go inside the casino and get money to settle an outstanding lawsuit brought by a former casino official.

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