Friday, 19 July 2024



KELSEYVILLE – A judge has ruled that the Lake County Record-Bee and a community member owe no damages in a libel suit filed over letters the paper printed earlier this year about the Clear Lake Riviera Community Association and its board.

Judge Vincent Lechowick entered his ruling in favor of the newspaper and Clear Lake Riviera resident Darrell Watkins on Dec. 3, deciding that neither owed any damages to plaintiffs Sid Donnell, Alan Siegel or Sandra Orchid, all former community association board members.

Donnell, Siegel and Orchid filed the suit in small claims court over the summer, claiming defamation of character over a series of letters Watkins had written and the paper had published which the plaintiffs said included false charge against each of them. They were seeking $7,500 each in damages.

Lechowick heard the suit on Nov. 6, and originally had indicated a decision would be issued within a few weeks.

“The judge’s decision was good for the Record-Bee, the media, in general, and for those citizens who have a desire to state their opinion,” Dickson said Tuesday.

Watkins felt vindicated by the decision.

“The little boy and the Record-Bee were victorious in their big battle at the OK Corral against the naked emperor and his gang,” he said. “Alan Siegel, Sid Donnell and Sandra Orchid's shut-up-little-boy bullets bounced right off the thick Free Speech and Freedom of the Press body armor worn by the good guys.”

Reacting to the decision, Donnell said the newspaper successfully smeared and defamed a California State Teacher of the Year, an executive secretary for the Chamber of Commerce and a retired U.S. Army officer.

The result, he said, was that the spirit of volunteerism in a group of individuals who did nothing more than attempt to better their community has been extinguished – all on behalf of a group of individuals who have contributed nothing to their community and “demonstrated a total disregard for their neighbors and their neighborhood.”

Watkins was one of several writers who, over the course of this year, has written letters criticizing Donnell, Siegel and Orchid for a variety of association actions.

He's alleged that they have broken bylaws, not had the bylaws properly accepted by the association membership and have fined homeowners – in some cases, thousands of dollars – for not cutting brush without using an established judicial process.

The content of the letters included allegations of illegal activity, which the plaintiffs said the newspaper had failed to fact-check and which they said had, in turn, damaged their reputations.

The former board members have dismissed all of Watkins' allegations as false.

They also had accused the paper of playing “political football” with a rebuttal letter Donnell had submitted for publication, but which the paper initially refused to print.

At the hearing Dickson said a corporate attorney had advised him not to print Donnell's letter in light of the suit. Siegel insisted the letter was submitted well before the suit was filed. Lechowick suggested the paper should have published it in the interest of fairness.

Dickson indicated at the time that he would publish the letter; however, shortly afterward, Donnell withdrew his publication request. He explained that he, Siegel and Orchid were no longer on the board and wanted to get on with their lives without being subjected to further attack.

Before the Nov. 6 hearing began, Donnell, Siegel and Orchid were served with a lawsuit filed by John Stoddard and a group he formed called We the People.

Filed Oct. 20, the suit names the three as well as another past board member, Boone Bridges, and 100 Does. It seeks injunctive relief and special damages in an unspecified amount.

The suit alleges breaking of election laws, violating the association's covenants, conditions and restrictions and amending those documents without a 50-percent-plus-one vote of homeowners.

This is the second libel suit the Record-Bee has faced this year.

The first suit was filed by neurologist Dr. Camille Keene over an article published in April that claimed she had diagnosed a man with a disease he didn't have. A visiting judge dismissed that case on Oct. 24, but nonetheless said the newspaper had used language “irresponsibly.”

In both cases, the judges indicated during court that the plaintiffs had not proved the damage needed to support a libel case.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LAKEPORT – A local man was arrested along with two others in Colorado this week on suspicion of involvement in transporting and distributing high-grade marijuana across state lines.

On Tuesday, investigators with the multiagency Boulder County, Colorado's Drug Task Force reported that they completed an investigation into the transportation and distribution of high-grade marijuana from California to Boulder.

The investigation, which concluded in an unincorporated area of Boulder County, resulted in the arrests of Robert Weldin, 47, of Lakeport; Kevin Reed, 45, of Santa Rosa; and Timothy Dabrowski, 27, of Boulder.

Investigators also seized 32 pounds of high grade marijuana – priced by Weldin at $3,500 per pound with a grand total of $112,000 for the 32 pounds – along with US currency, and the vehicle used to transport the marijuana from California to Boulder.

The three men were taken into custody without incident, officials reported.


Sgt. Nick Goldberger of the Boulder County Drug Task Force said the investigation was still under way and he couldn't discuss more of the circumstances at this point. “It's kind of developing,” he said.


Goldberger also couldn't discuss if they were working with Lake County authorities to investigate if the men were part of a larger distribution ring, or where the marijuana originated in California.

The Boulder County Jail reported that Weldin remained in custody on Friday afternoon, with bail set at $50,000.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


PARADISE COVE – An early morning traffic incident closed down a portion of Highway 20 for several hours on Thursday.

A big rig rolled over on the highway near Paradise Cove at 4:45 a.m., according to California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia.

Garcia said Joshua Cellars of Sacramento was driving a 2000 Peterbuilt tractor and trailer eastbound at Paradise Cove when the truck and trailer flipped over onto its right side.

Based on the preliminary investigation, Garcia said it appears the truck was going too fast for roadway conditions with regard to the load it was carrying.

No other vehicles were involved, said Garcia. Cellars sustained minor injuries.

The truck was hauling plywood which spilled and blocked the highway until 8:30 a.m., Garcia said. Motorists were diverted at Highway 53 in Clearlake Oaks and at Highway 29 in Upper Lake.

A Caltrans crew was dispatched and cleared the lumber out of the roadway where the truck's company, Inter City Inc., could remove it later, said Garcia.

A small amount of fuel from the truck was spilled but was quickly contained by emergency personnel, he added.

Officer Nick Powell is investigating the incident, Garcia said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


This is the third in a series of articles on Robinson Rancheria's effort to disenroll certain of its tribal members.

NICE – As tribal disenrollments escalate among tribes in California and the rest of the nation, many Indians facing the loss of their tribal membership and identity are struggling to find justice.

The fear of what may happen if they are stricken from the tribe's rolls is dominating the lives of between 60 and 74 current members of the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomos, who were notified late last month that they are up for disenrollment.

John Gomez, president of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization (AIRRO), said there's no real way for disenrolled Indians to seek redress. Gomez himself was disenrolled from the Pechanga tribe.

Because tribes invoke sovereign immunity, and because the Indian Civil Rights Act doesn't involve a course of redress for violations of those civil rights, the courts don't take action even though they acknowledge that the disenrollment actions are highly suspect if not illegal, said Gomez.

A 1978, the US Supreme Court's decision in Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, set an important legal precedent for how the US government and the courts deal with matters of tribal enrollment, said Gomez.

In that case, a female member of the Santa Clara Pueblo and her daughter argued that a Pueblo ordinance that denied tribal membership to children of female members who marry outside the tribe violated the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, because it did not treat the children of male members who married out of the tribe in the same way.

District and appellate courts found for the petitioners, but the Supreme Court reversed the decision.

Writing the majority opinion, Justice Thurgood Marshall noted that “Congress' authority over Indian matters is extraordinarily broad, and the role of courts in adjusting relations between and among tribes and their members correspondingly restrained.” The court held that tribal sovereignty protected them from being sued in civil actions for declaratory or injunctive relief.

Marshall quoted the Indian Civil Rights Act's chief sponsor, Sen. Sam Ervin, who said the 1967 bill “should not be considered as the final solution to the many serious constitutional problems confronting the American Indian.”

Justice Byron White dissented, saying the act was meant to insure that Indians had the same broad constitutional rights as other Americans.

“Given Congress' concern about the deprivations of Indian rights by tribal authorities, I cannot believe, as does the majority, that it desired the enforcement of these rights to be left up to the very tribal authorities alleged to have violated them,” White wrote.

Because of that decision, Gomez said the government, and particularly the Bureau of Indian Affairs – which manages relationships with 562 Indian tribes – tends to defer to tribal councils in what it considers internal matters.

“There's just nothing that we can do to step in,” concedes Bureau of Indian Affairs Deputy Regional Director Dale Risling. “It has to be resolved internally.”

Ideally, the issues can be resolved if tribes have courts or internal review processes, Risling said.

The BIA also is taking a hands-off approach to an election dispute within the tribe. EJ Crandell won the vice chair seat in a June 14 election, which was decertified by an election committee dominated by his rival for the seat, current Tribal Chair Tracey Avila.

Crandell and tribal members up for disenrollment say the action is in retaliation for his election.

A new election date, set for next month, will see Avila running for her seat unopposed, since the election committee ruled Crandell is ineligible to run on what he asserts is a trumped up technicality.

Superintendent Troy Burdick of the BIA's Central California Agency wrote Crandell a letter last month in which he said that, while the tribal council's decision to reschedule an election was “unusual” and not fully in compliance with the tribe's election laws, “it is not the Bureau's place to interfere in this process or to take a recognition action at this time that would disrupt a tribal process.”

Constitutional process gives Robinson members hope for justice

Still, in the matter of Robinson's disenrollment, the BIA may be able to intervene.

Last week the BIA did just that in a dispute involving the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians in San Diego County.

The BIA told the tribe they couldn't disenroll about 60 members whose ancestry was disputed, according to press reports. However, the agency said the tribe could appeal the decision.

In that case, the BIA could intervene because San Pasqual's constitution gives the BIA oversight in such

membership decisions.

Gomez, said that's because most tribes' constitutions don't include such language providing for oversight. “It doesn't happen as a matter of course.”

The San Pasquale development could have important implications for Robinson Rancheria, whose constitution – ratified in 1980 – has a provision to allow the BIA to hear rule on disenrollment appeals.

“In this particular situation, according to their laws, their constitution and enrollment ordinance, the BIA will become involved in a disenrollment appeal,” said Risling.

Robinson members who are disenrolled can appeal to the BIA, which will then make a determination. “That's not the case with most tribes,” Risling said.

The tribe's constitution sets up an appeals process, Risling explained. The appeal would have to be made through Burdick's office, which would prepare an administrative recommendation. If his decision was appealed it would go to Risling.

BIA hasn't done a full review of the case, yet, Risling added.

The agency would have to review a number of membership rolls that were passed, said Risling.

“We would act as fast as we could because these are really imp issues,” he said, adding it would be hard to give a timeline. “It depends on the circumstances.”

He said he didn't think the disenrollment action would be stayed while they're reviewing the appeal, meaning members would lose financial and other services. Any payments or services withheld would be an issue for separate agencies such as the National Indian Gaming Commission and state health services officials.

So are people who are disenrolled from their tribes no longer Indian?

Risling said no. “They would certainly be considered Indian.”

However, not being a member of a federally recognized tribe means they are no longer eligible for many services and programs, he said.

In California, descendants from the state's judgment roles make people eligible for Indian health services. That provision is due to many tribes being terminated in the 1950s and 1960s.

Some members up for disenrollment are considering the possibility of forming their own tribe. But Risling said that can be an extremely complicated and difficult matter involving a federal acknowledgment process.

That process requires applying tribes to show longterm existence, and cultural and historical ties to an area.

“I'm not saying that it can't be done,” said Risling, but with another, larger tribe already there, the difficulties are manifest.

Lake County News will continue to follow the Robinson Rancheria disenrollment situation and provide updates on as soon as they are available.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The winner of the silent auction was Mr and Mrs. Loitta of Cobb. Fowler has been an important supporter of the effort. Photo courtesy of Gail Salituri.

LAKEPORT – A memorial fundraiser that honors a local artist while supporting the building of a local domestic violence shelter will continue into 2009.

Gail Salituri of Inspirations Gallery created the LaForge Memorial Fund earlier this year in memory of her friend Barbara LaForge.

Along the way, Salituri has garnered some important support from local organizations and members of the business community.


The Lake County Arts Council has joined the effort, providing space for the raffle sales at the November Friday Night Fling at their Main Street Gallery in Lakeport.


Raffle tickets were sold for John Clarke's custom framed “Cable Car” lithograph. The winner is Sabrina Rogers. The winning tickets were drawn by Kathy Fowler at Inspirations Gallery and winners were notified by phone.


Lyle Madeson's photography of a boat on Clearlake was won by Lakeport Police Officer Mark Hommer of Lakeport.


The signed and numbered “Cable Car” lithograph brought in several bids and the final winning bidder was by Diane DeBartolo.


"Every dime we collect will be presented to the Lake Family Resource Center to help them build the shelter,” said Salituri.

“I first learned about this shelter from a local news article and realized it would be the perfect beneficiary,” she said. “Kathy Fowler has been right by my side in every way you can image when it comes to assisting this project, it makes this such a delightful and heartfelt cause and event."

Salituri said her goal is to generate $5,000, but in the struggling economy she is only halfway there.




Kathy Fowler shows off Salituri's original painting of Springer's Pond at the November First Friday Fling. Photo courtesy of Gail Salituri.



“So this means, we continue,” she said. “It does not end here, we will take this event right into 2009. I will continue to paint for this project until we reach our goals.”

Salituri offered her gratitude to those who come to her with donations or who buy raffle tickets.


This month they will begin selling raffle tickets for a beveled mirror valued at $600, a silver tray donated by the Kitchen Gallery, a gift certificate from Main Street Pizza and a very exciting new Giclee, "Pomo Basket" from Salituri's archived collection, "Pomo Artifacts." This Giclee is 11x14 in size and valued at $375.


Various auction items are on display at Inspirations Gallery. They have several 8-inch by 10-inch originals of vineyards with opening bids of $99, with suggested retail at $400. All custom framing is donated by Sheri Salituri. Winners will be announced on Valentine's Day.


Donations can be made to the LaForge Memorial at any Westamerica Bank, or contact Gail or Sheri Salituri at 263-4366 or




Sabrina Rogers, left, with the custom-framed John Clarke lithograph of a cable car. Gail Salituri stands at right. Photo courtesy of Gail Salituri.





CLEARLAKE OAKS – A man arrested Wednesday for allegedly being an accessory to a shooting last week was taken into custody without incident, but his brother remains at large, according to a Thursday report from the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Cecil McDaniel Jr., 37, was arrested Wednesday afternoon in connection with the Nov. 26 shooting of 42-year-old Patrick Joseph O’Conner, as Lake County News has reported.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that, following O'Conner's shooting, Superior Court Judge Richard Martin signed felony arrest warrants for Cecil McDaniel and his brother, Patrick Dewin McDaniel, 44.

Bauman said Patrick McDaniel, who is believed to have actually shot O'Conner, remains at large, with an outstanding felony arrest warrant for several charges, including attempted murder.

On Wednesday, sheriff’s detectives were conducting followup on the case in the Clearlake Oaks area when they located Cecil McDaniel standing on the side of the road on Lakeview Drive, said Bauman.

As the detectives approached McDaniel, he immediately surrendered, placing his hands in the air and was arrested without incident, Bauman said.

He was booked into the Lake County Jail for felony accessory to a crime and is being held on $500,000.

Bauman reported that O'Conner has been released from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and is believed to be recovering from his injuries.

He said the case remains pending for further investigation and the apprehension of Patrick McDaniel.


Hopefully by now readers will have become accustomed to my sense of humor, but while all of the facts you will read here are true, today’s column is written in a very sarcastic attitude. Please keep your tongue planted firmly in your cheek as you read.

Nutmeg is evil. Call your congressman, congresswoman, congressbeast; we have to enact laws against nutmeg. Nutmeg “mules” sometimes working under the guise of “spice importers” need to be captured at the boarder and deported. (Please, don’t really call your congressional representative ... )

Nutmeg has spent years quietly positioning itself into key areas of our culinary repertoire, and even a key part of many pharmaceuticals. Our recipes are defiled by its presence. Eggnog, baked goods, and even recipes for meatloaf – once pure and all-American – have all been sullied with nutmeg.

The pharmaceutical companies aren’t interested in nutmeg for its flavor; they use it because nutmeg is a known antibacterial, natural preservativ, and hallucinogenic! Myristicin is the active ingredient in the illegal drug called “Ecstasy” and is a major component in nutmeg. Elemicin is another compound found in nutmeg and is also a known hallucinogen.

Both Myristicin and Elemicin have chemical structures similar to Mescaline, another illegal drug. Nutmeg also contains a weak carcinogen called safrole, which has been named as a contributor to the overall incidence of cancer, so much so that it has been banned as a food additive by the Food and Drug Administration.

Nutmeg is considered by most authorities as a pseudo-hallucinogen. People who attempt to get high with nutmeg generally report that the negatives far outweigh the positives of abusing the “spice.” Not only is nutmeg filled with dangerous hallucinogenic but in ancient Rome priests used nutmeg as incense in their depraved heretical worship rituals.

Small amounts (measured in teaspoons) of freshly grated nutmeg can cause dry mouth, euphoria, nausea, increased heart rate and feelings of impending doom. Moderate amounts can, in addition to the previous, cause hallucinations, dehydration, vomiting, stomach cramps and feelings of being disconnected from reality. And if a person consumes too much nutmeg, permanent psychosis can occur. If this weren’t bad enough nutmeg is so toxic to the human body that if it is injected intravenously it causes DEATH!

Connecticut has the unofficial designation of “The Nutmeg State,” a tradition which sprang from rumors that unscrupulous merchants carved nutmegs shapes out of wood and sold them as actual nutmegs.

A corresponding story tells of people who didn’t understand the proper use of nutmeg that was being imported with sailors to Connecticut was to be grated into foods, but thought that nutmeg was cracked open like a nut and so believed they were swindled. When opened like a nut, nutmeg does resemble wood.

Some gamblers sprinkle nutmeg on gambling tickets for luck. Inmates in prisons have been known to sell nutmeg stolen from the prison kitchen for cigarettes and money. Upon discovery of this illicit trade, nutmeg is now banned from most prisons. Malcolm X wrote in his autobiography that before his conversion to Islam he paid for nutmeg in prison and it was better that marijuana.

Nutmeg is the seed pit of the tree Myristica fragrans. This seed pit is surrounded by a net-like covering called an arillus that is removed and then becomes the spice “mace.” The mace is covered by a sweet pericarp (aka, fruit) that is made into candies and jams. The exterior fruit doesn’t ship well, so it typically is only seen in the nutmeg’s native areas of Indonesia, India and the Caribbean. Or is this just a great conspiracy for these cultures to enjoy the sweet fruit of their local trees and then ship the dangerous nutmeg to pollute our society?! Evil, I say, evil!

Small, damaged or worm-infested nutmegs are processed into nutmeg oil. The scent of nutmeg is strong so it should be used sparingly. It is said to resemble the fragrance of myrrh. Over 8,000 tons of nutmeg is shipped annually around the world. Nutmeg is also widely believed to be an aphrodisiac.

I, for one, do not want to have to worry about leaving nutmeg unlocked in my home. How do I protect my daughter from dealers pushing nutmeg on street corners?! With its grubby little hands in illegal drugs, prisons, gambling and non-Christian worship practices, how much longer can we afford to let nutmeg freely move through our culture!?

Don’t even get me started on the evils of dill!

If you absolutely must use nutmeg, always use fresh ground.

Fairly Traditional Eggnog (with my own unique twists)


2 large eggs

2 Tablespoons plain white sugar

½ cup heavy cream

1 or 2 shots of your favorite rum, brandy, or whiskey

1 dash of cayenne powder or tiny dash of hot sauce (you won’t be able to taste it in the finish product but it acts as a natural flavor enhancer)

Freshly grated nutmeg

Separate the two eggs, reserve the whites and put the two yolks in your favorite pickle jar, cover and shake until the yolks lighten in color. Add the sugar, cream, liqueur, hot pepper and shake a few moments until combined. Whip the egg white into soft peaks and then gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the whites. Pour into glasses and grate the nutmeg right on top of the drink.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


The future of many marine species is greatly at risk from manmade under-sea noise pollution, conservationists warned this week, prompting urgent discussions at this week's 9th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

A report released today by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), “Ocean Noise: Turn it down,” showed that, in recent decades, ocean noise created by human activities has risen dramatically, posing a major threat to many marine mammals.

Noise from commercial shipping, sonar, seismic exploration by the oil and gas industry, off-shore construction and recreational activities, is contributing to a progressively more disorientating environment for the world's cetaceans.

Whales, dolphins, porpoises and other cetaceans rely on under-water sounds for communication, navigation and to locate food. Escalating manmade noise pollution can cause behavioral changes in cetaceans such as abandoning breeding and feeding areas, and in extreme cases lead to stranding and even death.

In recent years, international bodies such as United Nations, IMO (International Maritime Organisation) and the European Union have given greater attention to ocean noise pollution and IFAW believes that CMS can play a vital part in ensuring that robust resolutions to protect these species are urgently implemented. IFAW is calling on CMS Parties and the CMS Secretariat to consider a wide range of measures under discussion at the Convention to tackle underwater noise.

“Protecting marine species from ocean noise is critical to their survival. Ocean noise can travel over vast distances and affect marine species across many national sea boundaries,” said Veronica Frank, IFAW Campaign Officer. “Therefore it is vital that countries work together to build strong agreements to prevent marine species being drowned out by disruptive, man-made noise.”

IFAW's report highlighted that ship noise in the Pacific Ocean has doubled every decade over the past 40 years, and that the global shipping fleet is expected to double in size by 2025.

In contrast, the distance over which blue whales can communicate has been cut by a staggering 90 per cent as a result of increased noise levels.

IFAW’s ocean noise report particularly condemns high intensity noise such as seismic surveys and military sonar. These emit sounds above 200 decibels which can injure marine animals. Scientists have also linked high intensity sonar with fatal strandings of whales and dolphins.


SACRAMENTO – This week, the new leader of the California State Senate, Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) announced that North Coast Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) has assumed the position of chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government.

Wiggins said she was honored to accept the chairmanship of the committee, which reviews bills that affect California’s cities, counties, special districts and redevelopment agencies. The committee also hears bills that shape land use planning and development.

Prior to her election to the Assembly in 1998, Wiggins served as a member of the Santa Rosa City Council. As an Assemblywoman, she founded the Legislature’s Smart Growth Caucus (

She also authored AB 857 (statutes of 2002), the most comprehensive state land use planning legislation in 30 years. That bill established California’s spending priorities for future growth to help prevent sprawl, and to promote compact development and greater social equity.

In addition, Wiggins chaired the Assembly Committee on Local Government.

Wiggins said she looks forward to working with local governments across the state, to “ensure that my colleagues fully understand how proposed new laws may affect the local agencies that serve the people of California.”

Wiggins represents California’s large 2nd Senate District, which includes portions or all of six counties: Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma. Visit her Web site at


This is the second in a series of articles on Robinson Rancheria's effort to disenroll certain of its tribal members.

NICE – Late last month, the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomos Citizens Business Council informed several dozen members of its intent to remove their tribal membership, an action taking place not just locally but around California and the nation.

Between 60 and 74 members have reportedly been told they will be removed from the tribe's rolls unless, as a result of a half-hour appeal hearing granted to those who request it, the council chooses to let the members remain.

The appeal hearings to determine the future for these potential disenrollees began this week.

Tribal Chair Tracey Avila said this week that questions surrounding these tribal members and their entitlement to be included among the band's number have been an issue for years, going back to 1990.

This is the largest disenrollment action the tribe has ever taken, she concedes, as the tribe prepares for a January election to determine who will be tribal chair, as well as two other seats.

A June 14 election was decertified, and the tribe's election committee – dominated by Avila's family – has ruled that her challenger for the seat, EJ Crandell – who won the June election – has been disqualified from running.

Crandell and other tribal members, including potential disenrollee Luwana Quitiquit, say the disenrollments are purely political and retaliatory.

The tribe's own enrollment ordinance states that disenrollment is possible on three grounds: the person obtained enrollment by error, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; they became a fully recognized member of another tribe without relinquishing their Robinson Rancheria membership; the person is a descendant of a disenrollee and doesn't otherwise meet membership requirements.

The ordinance doesn't allow for disenrollment due to adoption, which traditionally has been a common practice among American Indians.

However, the tribal council has passed a resolution to strike the adoption process, which Quitiquit and Crandell say is an ex post facto law, which is prohibited in the tribe's 1980 constitution, just as it is the US Constitution.

If it's truly the case that Robinson's disenrollment is born out of politics and animosity toward rival families, the Robinson band wouldn't be unique. That's because attempts to reduce tribal membership through these types of actions aren't new to Lake County, California or the nation.

On Nov. 10, 2007, 25 members of the Elem Colony were removed from that tribe's rolls, including the last native speaker of the tribe's language. Then-chairman, Ray Brown Sr. acknowledged the move to County News in a previous interview, saying that the move was justified because many of the people were adopted into the tribe and weren't blood relations.

To date, an estimated 2,000 Indians have been disenrolled by 15 California tribes – not including those currently proposed at Robinson, according to John Gomez, president of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization (AIRRO), a group that focuses on human and civil rights issues.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Deputy Regional Director Dale Risling, based in Sacramento, said “quite a few” tribes are going through disenrollments currently.

He said his agency hears about most of them through the media, and not directly, since they don't usually have a role in settling the disputes because of tribal constitutions. “The ones that we really get are the ones that require our involvement.”

Tony Gonzales, spokesman for the American Indian Movement-West, said gaming tribes decertifying members has become a big problem nationwide as well.

That's because a lot is at stake, with gaming tribes across the nation generating revenues in the realm of $46 billion.

“Unfortunately, in the process to gain more money for themselves, they are decertifying members,” said Gonzales. “The irony, too, is they're adopting non-Indians into their tribes.”

Some blame gaming for disenrollments

In California, Gomez said the vast majority of disenrollments have occurred since the passage of Proposition 5, the Tribal Government Gaming and Economic Self-Sufficiency Act of 1998 that allowed gaming on tribal lands, and Proposition 1A, passed in 2000, allowing tribes to operate slot machines and banked and percentage card games.

He said it's mostly the gaming tribes who carry out reducing membership in this way. “I don't believe it's just about greed. I think it's about greed and retaining political power.”

Gomez was among 200 people disenrolled by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in 2004. Two years later, as many as 175 more Pechanga tribal members saw their membership disappear. “Both times it just happened prior to regularly scheduled elections for tribal council.”

The Redding Rancheria's first tribal chair, Bob Foreman, and his family – all 76 members – were disenrolled in 2002 after their lineage was questioned. Despite providing DNA samples to prove their ancestry, Foreman – who had been tribal chair for 20 years – was pushed out of the tribe.

Gomez said Foreman, who incidentally was born in Nice, went on to be a founding member of AIRRO.


Foreman died Nov. 19, and Gomez and other AIRRO members are traveling to Redding for his funeral this weekend, at which time they're expected to discuss possible action in response to Robinson's disenrollment move.

He said disenrollments often evolve around election disputes, as in Robinson's case. Similarly, Gomez said the Mooretown Rancheria of Oroville reclassified 30 percent of its membership and denied them voting rights so they couldn't participate in an election planned four days later. “The tribe still counts them as members but they're members without rights.”

Many tribal members will attempt to justify disenrollment actions saying that there is a question about ancestry, but he points out that such questions didn't arise when the tribes were counting members for federal government assistance.

As tribal rolls dwindle, federal funding also can go away, he said. However, the larger gaming tribes can afford to fund their own programs.

Quitiquit and some other tribal members facing disenrollment, many of whom asked that their names not be used at this time due to fear of retribution, said they felt Robinson Rancheria's casino and gaming had given rise to many of their current problems.

Rather than helping Indians get a leg up, they say that gaming is leading to expulsion of tribal members – among them veterans and elders – who may face a life on welfare without the support of their tribal communities.

Some Indian activists have even gone so far as to call disenrollment the “new Indian genocide.”

The problem is such a concern in Indian Country that last year, American Indian Movement activist Dennis Banks said that the Bureau of Indian Affairs needed to intervene to stop the California disenrollments.

A Government Accountability Office report issued last month, titled “Confirmation of Political Appointees: Eliciting Nominees' Views on Management Challenges within Agencies and Across Government,” also recognizes the problem.

The report urged political leaders to ask the following question of nominees for the Secretary of the Interior, which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs: “Tribal membership disputes and tribal leadership disputes seem to be occurring more and more frequently. What experience do you have in working with tribal leadership and trying to resolve these types of disputes or in trying to prevent them?”

Far-reaching implications for loss of tribal membership

Gomez said AIRRO is seeing the same thing happening around the state – Indians stripped of lawful citizenship and all of the associated rights – from housing to education to health care to jobs.

When membership in a federally recognized tribe is lost, federal help goes away, he said. “It cuts across everything that has to do with their lives.”

The affects aren't just social or economic, but emotional and psychological as well, said Gomez. Being put out of a tribe has serious implications about identity for people who are being told they are no longer Indian.

If Robinson Rancheria goes through with its proposed membership reduction, Quitiquit said the implications could be devastating.

Among the first acts she expects is for disenrolled members to be banished from the rancheria. That would mean leaving their homes; Quitiquit's own family stands to lose two of an estimated 10 homes at stake.

Being cut off from the land also would mean they could be prevented from visiting the graves of their family members at the rancheria's cemetery, said Quitiquit. Gomez said that's happened in other areas.

There would also be a loss of education opportunities and funding, as well as Indian health services,which are critical due to the high number of tribal members suffering from diabetes and chronic diseases, particularly elders.

Those who hold jobs with the tribe also could be fired. She said some of the members in question already have been put on administrative leave from their jobs. A “no gossip” memo also was reportedly issued by Avila to staff, warning that discussion about the disenrollments would result in termination.

Quitiquit, who recently left her job as a cook for a program that provides meals to 24 homebound elders, said 20 of those elders are facing disenrollment. The four who would be left would not be enough to justify continuing the federally funded meals program.

Elders would lose their monthly retirement payments of $400, said Quitiquit. “All the elders are suffering right now because we don't have it.”

All members currently on the disenrollment list have had their payments suspended, including the $300 per capital payment plus a $2,000 Christmas bonus, funded through federal grants and revenues from the tribe's casino on Highway 20.

One elderly woman who is a caretaker for her grandchildren told Quitiquit she won't be able to make ends meet outside of the tribe.

Quitiquit said the tribal council, in its attempt to maintain power, can take these actions under the guise of sovereignty. “Forget about our civil rights.”

In the last election, many people voted for Avila because she said she was not for disenrollment, said Quitiquit. “We were completely fooled.”

She added, “If this is what happens to us, then down the road it's going to happen to the other tribal members they don't like.”

Tomorrow: Avenues of redress, government involvement and what the Bureau of Indian Affairs might do in the Robinson Rancheria case.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


This is the first in a series of articles on Robinson Rancheria's effort to disenroll certain of its tribal members.

NICE – The Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomos Citizens Business Council this week is holding hearings that could have serious implications for the future of dozens of people whose lives are shaped by their unique identity as native Pomo.

Of the tribe's 347 voting members, 60 have been notified that they are being considered for disenrollment, according to Tribal Chair Tracey Avila.

Other sources within the tribe estimate the number of potential disenrollments to be as high as 74.

Whichever number is correct, both sides agree that this is the largest disenrollment action the tribe has ever attempted in its history.

The action's results could be devastating for those who find their names removed from the tribe's rolls.

Entire families face the loss of their homes, jobs, health care, education and a sense of their own identity. Homebound elders may no longer receive much-needed meals or monthly retirement checks. A daughter of the tribe's last chief also is reported to be up for dismissal.

Those up for disenrollment may have a slim hope of recourse, as the tribe's constitution contains an appeals process involving the Bureau of Indian Affairs which, in many tribal disenrollment cases, can't get involved, said Bureau of Indian Affairs Deputy Regional Director Dale Risling.

Potential disenrollees said the move is based on politics and greed, and that it's arisen out of a disputed June election that was decertified. They say they're being removed from the tribal rolls before a January election is planned so they can't vote to replace key council members trying to hold onto power.

John Gomez, president of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization (AIRRO), agrees with those assessments of the Robinson Rancheria situation.

In California to date, an estimated 2,000 Indians have been disenrolled by 15 California tribes – not including those currently proposed at Robinson, said Gomez, noting that disenrollments often evolve around political issues and elections.

Avila, the tribe's current chair, denies those allegations, saying that the disenrollments are a matter of tribal housekeeping, and merely an attempt to deal with longstanding questions about the validity of some members' claims.

The tribal members proposed for disenrollment received certified letters dated Nov. 20 – ironically, during the midst of Native American Heritage Month – notifying them that they were proposed for removal from the tribe's rolls, according to a copy of such a letter obtained by Lake County News.

Further, they were told they could request an appeal hearing with the Robinson Rancheria Citizens Business Council, during which they would have a half-hour to make their case for keeping their membership in the tribe. However, they had five business days to respond to the letter, and many tribal members live out of state.

Those appeal hearings began on Monday and have run throughout the week, according to tribal members.


Tribal chair says it's housekeeping; members say it's politics

Avila told Lake County News this week that the proposed disenrollment actions are predicated on the three specific dates of membership – which correspond to censuses of tribal members – included in the tribe's constitution. Those people whose names aren't on the rolls are now up for removal from tribal membership and benefits.

“This has been on the table for many, many years,” said Avila, estimating that it goes back to 1990.

Until now, the matter has been overlooked by Robinson's leadership, she said. Avila noted that some of those people who face losing their membership were on past tribal councils.

Luwana Quitiquit, a traditional Pomo artist who makes baskets and jewelry, and creates traditional buckskin clothing, is one of the members facing disenrollment, along with most of her family.

Quitiquit quoted tribal Vice Chair Curtis Anderson Jr. as having said publicly, and repeatedly in the past that everyone currently enrolled in the tribe is a member unless they relinquish their membership – or die.

Anderson was contacted for this article but chose not to offer comment.

Quitiquit didn't have a hearing this week, although she has requested one. “I didn't get that opportunity.”

She said she's waiting for written notification of her hearing, which is supposed to be set at a time and date of her choosing. But the council appears to have been assigning hearing times and dates in most cases.

When Quitiquit does go, she plans to take with her a thorough document outlining the disenrollment action's improprieties and her own lineage. She'll also carry with her a picture of her mother, Marie Boggs Quitiquit, who died at age 76 in 1997.

Quitiquit questions violations of due process, civil rights and privacy – the latter in relation to members' personal files held in tribal officials' hands.

She also points to the tribal constitution's double jeopardy clause as a defense. That's important in her case because she has faced a threat to her membership before when, in 1983, the tribal council attempted to have her and six other members removed.

At the time, tribal elder Wilbur Augustine did extensive research into Quitiquit's family lineage, and spent 10 hours going over it with Bureau of Indian Affairs enrollment officers, she aid.

The result, Quitiquit said, was that they affirmed her membership based on descent from her grandfather, Lumen Boggs, whose name appeared on early rolls.

Since then, there have been “small corrections” here and there to membership, usually on a case-by-case basis – “never anything this big,” she said.

This time, Quitiquit says it's political, since she and her family already have proven their ancestry qualifies them as members. She said she confronted Avila on Nov. 13 at the casino, and Avila admitted that it was political on the part of other council members.

Currently the chair of the tribe's constitution committee, and a former member of the election and amendment committees, Quitiquit stated that she believes the impetus for the disenrollment actions stems from a June 14 election in which Avila was defeated by EJ Crandell for the tribal chair seat.


Timing raises issues about upcoming election

Crandell, 32, an Iraq war vet, returned to Lake County in 2004 after a six-year stint in the US Army, where he attained the rank of sergeant.

He was a member at-large on the tribal council from January 2006 to September 2007, serving along with Avila, who said she has been tribal chair since October 2006.

Crandell alleges that Avila appealed his win and the tribe's election committee – dominated by the powerful Anderson family, of which Avila is a member – voted to decertify the election and reset it for January.

Avila said the June election was invalidated “due to some discrepancies,” although she would not specify what they were, saying it was tribal business.

She said it's not the first time a tribal election has been invalidated, which she went on to say has happened to all of them. “It's always been that way.”

The tribe held a general membership meeting on Oct. 25 at which members demanded that Avila and other council members who had been voted out step down to make way for the new council members, including Crandell.

While 119 people voted to have Crandell seated, Avila said the rest of the 347 voting members voted to have the election invalidated, which Crandell disputes, saying the full membership wasn't even there.

Lake County News obtained a DVD copy of a video of the meeting, which showed a unanimous floor vote – with people raising their hands – supporting having Crandell seated. The meeting ended with the tribal council telling tribal members to leave or else they would be removed by security. Tribal members agreed to leave peacefully on their own after the heated gathering.

Avila dismissed the meeting as par for the course. “Those meetings are always like that.”

Crandell said the opposite, that the meetings aren't commonly full of unrest.

Avila said the people proposed for disenrollment aren't on the list because they supported Crandell. However, Quitiquit said the council had people photographing those with their hands up in support of his election. Those people then began receiving the disenrollment letters.

“I don't know why this is such a big issue,” said Avila.

When asked if she realized how the timing of the disenrollment – just a month before the election – gives rise to that concern, she said, “I can understand why they would think that.”

But she insisted that isn't the case.

Avila also acknowledged that the tribe has not previously attempted to remove so many people at one time from the rolls.

Crandell is championing the families facing disenrollment. He's been meeting with BIA officials in an effort to get some redress, and is helping potential disenrollees draft appeal letters to the BIA.

He says the disenrollment action violates the tribal constitution's basic tenets, including bill of attainder – which targets a specific group or individual and punishes them without benefit of trial – and ex post facto, or retroactive, law.

Avila does not dispute that the people being proposed for disenrollment are Indian. Rather, she said they come from other tribes.

The issue of the January election may be a moot point. Crandell said the election committee has informed him that he cannot run, so Avila will seek reelection unopposed.

Crandell said he wants to see the will of the tribe honored. “Peace is the ultimate thing.”

Tomorrow: Disenrollments as a state and national issue, and the far-reaching implications of disenrollment on the lives of those facing the loss of membership.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


KELSEYVILLE – A University of California, Davis professor who has received a substantial grant for breast cancer research wants to give back to the community where he grew up, and is inviting local students to apply for internships in his program.

Michael DeGregorio, 53, grew up in Lake County. Six years ago, he bought a Kelseyville farmhouse built in 1870, which he moved into three months ago.

He commutes most days to UC Davis, where he's a professor of hematology and oncology. He also has a laboratory at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, and leads the pharmacology research program at UC Davis Cancer Center, where he specializes in the molecular analysis of drug activity and the evaluation of biomarkers of drug response or resistance. The majority of his work focuses on developing new drugs that improve women's health.

DeGregorio and his research team have received a $3 million grant from Merck KGaA to assess the effectiveness of Stimuvax, an experimental vaccine that targets MUC1, a cancer cell surface protein that is uniquely overexpressed in many cancers, including more than 90 percent of all breast cancers.

The study DeGregorio and longtime collaborator Greg Wurz, a UC Davis research scientist, are launching will study Stimuvax to determine if it can arrest or prevent breast cancer when used in conjunction with standard hormonal therapies.

They will assess the vaccine's ability to prevent breast cancer in mice bred to promote human MUC1 expression and a gene known to spontaneously cause breast cancer. The mice additionally will be exposed to one of four anti-estrogen therapies to assess the vaccine's impact.

Existing cancer vaccines for hepatitis B and the human papillomavirus aim to prevent the viral infections that can lead to liver and cervical cancers. But the experimental breast-cancer vaccine aims to stimulate the immune response against breast cancer tumors themselves.

Results from the UC Davis study will help direct the design of human clinical trials slated to begin worldwide in 2009, according to a statement from the university.

In an effort to give back to the community where he grew up, DeGregorio – a Kelseyville High School alumni – will offer up to six research internships this summer to local students who excel in the sciences.

Students will receive three to four weeks' experience in DeGregorio's state-of-the-art lab, where he said they will see actual cancer patients. Participating students also will be able to conduct molecular biology-type studies in labs.

Those students who complete the internship will come away with a letter of recommendation that can help them get into schools at a time when competition for spots at state colleges is getting tighter, he said.

The internships are open to all area high school students, who DeGregorio said must be at least 16 years of age.

DeGregorio said he hopes that, by giving students first-hand experience in a research lab and showing them how scientists apply knowledge to find solutions to challenging health problems, he'll help those who may be interested in pursuing a career in research or medicine.

Matthew Cockerton, principal of Kelseyville High School, said he appreciates the opportunity to expand students' knowledge.

"Opportunities like this don't surface for our school too often," he said. "Anytime we can give students real-world experience at a nationally ranked university, we are elated. And we are deeply grateful to Dr. DeGregorio for remembering his early experience and offering his laboratory to broaden our students' education."

DeGregorio has been all over the world since leaving Lake County to pursue his studies as a young man.

He started off at junior college, then went on to San Francisco State. DeGregorio received his doctorate from the University of California, San Francisco, where he became a faculty member at age 26.

DeGregorio would later go on to become an associate-level professor at Yale while he was in his early 30s. Then it was on to the University of Texas, where he became a full professor and started a biotech company. He arrived at UC Davis in 1994.

Throughout his travels around the world, DeGregorio said he always wanted to return to Lake County.

Now that he's back, he's placing this new focus on helping local students who have an aptitude for science.

DeGregorio notes there are very bright young people in Lake County. “I really think that we have to even the playing field a little bit out there, the best we can. This is my small way of doing it.”

He estimates his program of study on the effectiveness of the experimental vaccine in humans will last 10 years, with the $3 million grant covering three to four years of study. Within five years they should know if the vaccine works for humans, with human trials scheduled this year.

“In science, nothing ever happens the way you think,” he said, noting that serendipity is responsible for 80 percent of all inventions.

If the vaccine doesn't work, the study will be discontinued, he said.

The protein MUC1 is “a pretty hot topic right now,” said DeGregorio. In addition to breast cancer, MUC1 is now being studiec in relation to lung cancer.

There are many variations of cancer, and DeGregorio said at the molecular level they're all different.

Recent big breakthroughs in cancer involve leukemia in children, which DeGregorio said may be curable, according to the latest studies. There also is increased promise in curing testicular cancer.

“The idea of prevention is where we should be going,” he said, adding that, once you get cancer, it's hard to beat.

DeGregorio said he will be contacting area school principals and science teachers to find eligible students.

He also invited anyone interested in the program to contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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