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Rohnert Park Indian casino faces new legal challenge

February 21, 2009

ROHNERT PARK, CA - A lawsuit filed last July to stop the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria to build a casino in Rohnert Park was amended in federal court January 29th by the plaintiffs, a group of local residents, a Petaluma city councilman, and the "Stop the Casino 101" activist group.

"People are misreading the Graton Restoration Act and it doesn't allow the kind of shopping that's going on," said Petaluma City Councilman Mike Healy. "The GRA has been interpreted that they can buy up to two parcels anywhere in Sonoma and Marin counties and have them taken into trust for Indian gaming. That's not accurate; the act only applies to very specific types of land, most specifically the Graton Rancheria itself."

"The most exciting thing about the amended complaint is that it addresses the issue of restoration on the basis of the Graton Rancheria and the act," added Marilee Montgomery of Stop the Casino 101. "There was never a tribe on the Graton Rancheria, and the restoration on that basis was contrived. The record is very clear about the circumstances on Graton Rancheria.

"The overwhelming body of archival evidence says that there was never a tribe there. The FIGR went to the federal government, claimed there was a tribe there, historically, and that they remained a tribe after it was eliminated. They omitted a huge body of archival evidence that would have negated their claim."

The plaintiffs hope the financial backer for the casino, Station Casinos, will be impacted by their financial problems. The company will soon restructure. A spokesperson, Lori Nelson, said Tuesday "The proposed plan will not impact our relationship with the tribe, nor will it have any impact on the progress of the project." This restructuring is only for the parent company and not for the tribal partnerships, including the Rohnert Park project, she said.

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