Judge rules training center eviction was legal
Union Tribune (2012-02-02) J Harry Jones
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WARNER SPRINGS — A judge has ruled that a lease between the Los Coyotes Indian tribe and a military training business is invalid and ordered the business to remove all its property from the North County reservation within 45 days.
Intertribal Court of Southern California Chief Judge Anthony Brandenburg said in a ruling issued Thursday that the tribe’s former chairwoman did not have the authority to enter into a lease on her own and that evidence clearly shows the tribe as a whole never agreed to the business partnership.
“Allowing a single person to do so is unheard of in Indian Country and is contrary to the sacred principle,” Brandenburg wrote in his decision.
At issue was whether a lease signed in March 2010 between the tribe and the Eagle Rock Training Center (now known officially as ERTC, LLC) to run the training center was valid. The lease was originally for six years and 11 months on a large part of the 25,000-acre reservation near Warner Springs. It was later revised to 24 years and 11 months and included a provision that the tribe waive its sovereign immunity for the agreement’s duration. Marines and Navy SEALs have trained at the facility.
The tribe evicted the business and its employees from the reservation last fall, saying it only learned of all the agreement’s provisions last year. It went to the court with a request to make the eviction permanent. A three-day trial, spread out over December and last month, was held in the tribal court in Valley Center.
The matter may not yet be over. A hearing is tentatively scheduled for next month in federal court, although Thursday night ERTC head Sean Roach said it was unclear if his business will pursue the matter further.
“This is a sad day,” he said. “This proves that an Indian tribe can enter into an agreement and back out of it ... you would have to be an absolute moron to ever do business with a tribe.”
Roach said the decision may have ramifications beyond Los Coyotes. He said businessmen all over the country who are working with tribes have been following the case closely.
Mark Radoff, the tribe’s attorney, said Thursday that he is pleased with the decision and believes the tribal court was the appropriate forum for the matter to be decided.