Sides react to state lawsuit against Paskenta tribe


CORNING, Calif. - Both sides of the divided Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians are saying they're pleased with a lawsuit filed by the State of California over the ongoing dispute at Rolling Hills Casino in Corning.

Turmoil erupted last Monday when tribal council members ousted in April sent so-called 'tribal police' to the Tehama County casino in an attempt to take it back.

Those police were stopped and barred from entering the grounds by hired security. Both sides carried weapons and a standoff ensued.

A suit filed Tuesday by the State of California called the situation an "imminent threat to public health and safety."

The suit asks a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order and injunctions prohibiting anyone in the tribe from attempting to repossess or take control of the casino, deploying armed personnel of any kind or from carrying a firearm at the casino or on any tribal properties.

At a much calmer and less fortified Rolling Hills Casino Tuesday night, tribal chairman Andy Freeman--who's currently in control of the operation--says he welcomes the lawsuit because it is likely to prevent any future standoffs.

"It's the same thing we wanted. We wanted everything the same. We didn't want to have any problems fighting with anyone or trying to fight with anyone, all we wanted was to do our business like it was normal," Freeman said. "This is exactly what we wanted."

In an email from a representative of the ousted tribal council members, Vice Chairman David Swearinger is quoted as saying, in part, "The State Attorney General is taking action on a very volatile situation – the only one to do so. The Tribal Council welcomes her involvement... Correcting this situation will benefit the Tribe and secure the jobs of the employees working there."

On top of the injunctions and restraining order, the suit asks the US District Court to declare that the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians has materially breached it's gaming compact with the state, opening the door for the state, if it chooses, to terminate the compact.

That action, if taken, could shut down the casino.

Earlier Tuesday it was announced that ousted tribal council members and those currently in control of casino operations had come to an agreement to take part in mediation that will help them to address conflicts and hopefully resolve the situation.

Chairman Andy Freeman said that could happen as soon as next week.