Politics & Government

The Buzz: Federal court reopens Calaveras County tribe challenge

Federal judge wants review of a tribe’s membership

A bitter and long-running fight over a small Calaveras County tribe has taken a new turn, as a Washington, D.C.-based federal judge has ordered Interior Department officials to take another look at its past decisions.

In a 23-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein sided with Yakima Dixie and his allies with the California Miwok Indian Tribe. Dixie has been competing with Silvia Burley for tribal control of what was once called the Sheep Ranch Me-Wuk.

Money, among other things, is at stake; as Rothstein noted, “the California Gambling Control Commission notified the Tribe that it would withhold distributions from the California Revenue Sharing Trust Fund until the tribal leadership was established.”

In 2011, the Obama administration effectively sided with Burley. On Friday, though, Rothstein concluded that it was “unreasonable” for the administration to declare that the tribe consisted solely of Yakima, Burley, Burley’s two daughters and Burley’s granddaughter.

Rothstein remanded the case to the Interior Department for reconsideration.

– Michael Doyle


The state Board of Equalization handled more than 1,500 trays of mail (500 pieces per tray) to process payments of the state’s fire-prevention fee during the first two billing cycles, according to a board report. Fifty-four employees are assigned to collect the $150 charge, the subject of a lawsuit by opponents who call it an illegal tax. Fee-payer opposition has increased customer-service employees’ workload, the board’s report said. The fee raised $75.2 million in 2012-13 and a projected $88.9 million in 2013-14.

– Jim Miller