Evicted former members of Robinson Rancheria met with Lake County Publishing Thursday to share their experiences of a Tuesday eviction from the reservation.
Law enforcement officers of the Robinson Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California evicted people who were alleged to be illegally occupying five tribal homes owned by the tribe located on the Robinson Indian Rancheria Reservation. A press release submitted by Tribal Attorney Lester Marston stated the Tribal Court ordered the tenants who failed to pay, to move out more than a year ago, but they refused to leave.
"When I came home, police handed me a paper that said I had to be out at 11 a.m.," Inez Sands said. "They gave me the paper at 10:20 a.m."
"I was told if I went back to the reservation, I would be arrested," she said. "My stuff is still there."
Attorney Joseph L. Kitto, Esq. who represents the evicted parties said they were long-term residents living in the same homes for nearly or more than 20 years under a Mutual Help and Occupancy Agreement (MHOA) through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
"The MHOAs were originally managed by Northern Circle, but the Tribe sought and received the assignment of the agreements in 2001. Shortly thereafter, all the residents met and were told that the tribe would be giving them deeds to their homes and would be providing services. Relying on this representation, the residents began paying for services, but no deeds were ever issued," Kitto said.
Kitto alleges that residents collectively, including now Chairperson Tracy Avila, refused to continue paying since they were not assured of the status of their homes and since the services were sporadic.
Marston responded saying, "This is the biggest crock of lies since Hitler told Chamberlain he was only interested in Sudetenland (part of what was Czechoslovakia)."
Marston said the evictees are trying to get reader's attention, because some of those evicted are elderly.
"Even elderly people have to keep their word and pay their bills. The tribe has shown the utmost respect to these individuals," Marston said.
But, Rosalie Want said she was given 30 minutes to pack up and was told she could pick up the rest of her belongings later. She said she has multiple sclerosis and diabetes and wasn't able to take her medicine. "I needed to go back to get my medicine and was told we had to leave now."
Want's husband, Ruben, said they had to leave everything behind except what they could fit into their car. "We had to leave a dog behind," Ruben said.
Allan Harrison said he had to leave his cat behind.
The evicted allege Robinson Rancheria tribal leader Tracey Avila, housing director Stephanie Rodriguez and the Tribal Business Council wanted the families out of the houses.
The members allege the evictions stem from refusing to pay a $125 fee to the rancheria for services such as garbage, insurance and street lighting.
"They weren't providing the services," Rosalie Want said.
Sands said she was sent a notice on Aug. 8, 2011 that she owed approximately $2,000 in back fees.
Kitto said the home Sands lived in sustained fire damage that was never fixed.
Marston said he has all contracts and receipts proving the repairs were done and that the tribe had to pay her insurance since she was in arrears.
Tribal member E.J. Crandell said, "I have a document that says Stephanie Hanson (Rodriguez) owes $6,800 as of 2010," he said. "She's a homeowner and she's not being evicted.
Stephanie Rodriguez said Friday, "They're right, I was behind in my payments just like them. The difference is I was willing to pay off that old outstanding balance to avoid being evicted ... I understand they're upset and I sympathize. All the documentation on this issue is on record. The statements they've given are twisted dramatizations of the facts but in the big picture it was legal and its done. My focus is on the next five families who have been selected to live on the reservation in our short supply of affordable housing."
Karen Ramos said both she and her husband lost their jobs with the tribe.
Marston said those who lost their jobs were at-will employees, but were fired for cause with reasons such as stealing, drug use and wrongful conduct on the job.