Media Coverage

— RINCON: Tribe drills to test underground water in private property
By EDWARD SIFUENTES - North County Times March 26, 2012

A couple living behind a barricade imposed by the Rincon Band of Mission Indians got a visit Monday morning from workers hired by the tribe to drill holes on the property.

The crew from Applied Engineering and Geology was there to test the underground water supply, tribal officials said.

This was the latest salvo in a five-year battle to get the owner of the property to comply with the Valley Center tribe's environmental regulations.

The 5-acre property, directly across the road from the tribe's casino and resort, has housed a vehicle storage yard, a trucking business, a mushroom farm and numerous recreational vehicles. The property is now largely vacant except for two modular homes and some abandoned motor homes.

Rincon officials have said in court documents that the property was a health and environmental hazard. But the land that was once part of the reservation is privately held by Marvin Donius, who has said in court documents that the property was not subject to the tribe's jurisdiction or laws.

Lawyers for Rincon disagree. They obtained an order from Judge Anthony Brandenburg, chief justice of the Intertribal Court of Southern California in Rincon, allowing crews to access the property and test the water supply for contamination.

Steven Rogers-Dial and his wife, Suzanne, are caretakers of the property at 33777 Valley Center Road in Valley Center and rent a home there from Donius. They have started a website called "Steve and Suzanne's Last Stand at Rincon" documenting their feud with the tribe. "It makes my blood boil," Steven Rogers-Dial said Monday morning. "They are looking for something to get Marvin thrown off this property."

On Oct. 20, 2009, Donius filed a lawsuit in federal court against tribal officials saying that tribal rules did not apply on his property because it was private land. Judge William Hayes dismissed the case last year, saying that Donius first had to follow through with the tribal court process.

Since the 2007 wildfires, the tribe has refused to give San Diego Gas & Electric Co. permission to restore power to the property. Following the fires, the tribe enacted its Tribal Environmental Policy Ordinance in an effort to eliminate environmental problems and fire hazards on the reservation.

The tribe claims that the 5-acre property was subject to its environmental rules under a U.S. Supreme Court case, Montana v. United States. In the Montana case, the court ruled in 1981 that a tribe has civil authority over nontribal lands within its reservation when the health or welfare of the tribe is threatened. Rincon claims in court documents that the chemicals from the various businesses on the property may have contaminated the groundwater.

In October 2010, the tribe placed three concrete barricades blocking the entrance to the property. About 7:30 a.m. Monday, crews moved one of the barriers to allow several vehicles and people onto the property to conduct the drilling. Two Sheriff's Department deputies and two tribal security officers waited outside the property to prevent any confrontations.

Asked whether the tribe had county permits to drill on the property, Rincon attorney Denise Turner Walsh said Monday that the permits were not needed. "We have a court order," Turner said. "What more do we need?"

NC Times article

— RINCON: Couple staying put in property dispute with tribe
State, fed courts have ruled that the fight belongs in tribal court

By EDWARD SIFUENTES - North County Times January 9, 2011

For over two months, Steve and Suzanne Rogers-Dial have been living behind a concrete barricade on a 5-acre property near the Rincon Indian reservation.

They are caught in an ongoing legal dispute between the property owner, Marvin Donius, and the Rincon Band of Mission Indians. The couple can come and go from the Valley Center site, but anything they remove from the property is not allowed back in.

"They are making our life miserable," Steve Rogers-Dial said of the tribe.

A spokeswoman for the tribe said Thursday that the court case is ongoing and that the tribe will continue to fight the legal battle.

In November, a Superior Court judge in Vista denied the couple's request for a preliminary injunction against the Rincon band's blockade. Judge Robert Dahlquist said the court lacks jurisdiction in the matter.

Still, the couple refuses to leave.

The reason is two-fold: They have no money to move anywhere else and they are helping their friend, Rogers-Dial said.

"It's a principle," he said. "They are trying to run a man off his property."

The property, located directly across the road from the tribe's casino and resort, has housed a vehicle storage facility, trucking business and numerous recreational vehicles. Rincon officials have said the property was a health and environmental hazard and ordered it to be cleaned up.

Donius says the property is not subject to the tribe's jurisdiction or laws because it's not on reservation land.

For years, the Rincon tribe has tried to get the owner to comply with its regulations using the Intertribal Court of Southern California, but Donius has rejected the court's authority over his property.

Judge Anthony Brandenburg, chief justice of the Intertribal Court, issued an injunction in September ordering Donius to remove all vehicles and tenants from the property. Brandenburg gave the owner until October to comply, but Donius refused.

Under the judge's order, the tribe blocked the only entrance to the property with several large concrete barriers.

Rogers-Dial, who works removing debris from construction sites, said the barriers have hurt his business. He parks his truck outside the property and has relied on friends to help him store the containers he uses to haul away the debris.

The manufactured home where he and his wife live runs on a diesel generator because the tribe has not allowed San Diego Gas & Electric to restore power to the property since the 2007 wildfires brought down the lines.

The couple spends $800 a month in fuel to keep the generator running, Rogers-Dial said.

An attorney for the tribe said state and federal courts have repeatedly ruled against Donius and Rogers-Dial and reinforced the tribe's authority.

Call staff writer Edward Sifuentes at 760-740-3511.