The supervisors gave Chumash leadership unanimous good news and divided bad news this week. The board voted 5-0 that the tribe can — on its own dime — contract with the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services on the existing reservation. But the county won’t let the tribe’s Camp 4 dreams become reality without a fight. In the supes’ closed-session discussion — spurred by an environmental report last month from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs that paves the way for final approval to annex the 1,400-acre property — they voted 3-2 to appeal the report and initiate litigation if the federal government grants the tribe’s request, which many speculate could happen by the end of the year.
Chumash Chair Vincent Armenta said he wasn’t surprised by the county’s decision but called it “hasty, irrational, ignorant.” He repeated the tribe’s sentiment that the county should establish a government-to-government relationship with the Chumash, and he called the potential lawsuit “narrow-minded” and “ironic.” Armenta also took issue with what he said, in regard to Camp 4, is the county “suing over $80,000 in property taxes” when the tribe on the same day agreed to pay $849,000 annually for the aforementioned law enforcement services.
Revisiting a June discussion, the supervisors okayed a plan worked out by Sheriff Bill Brown and the tribe that will see the Chumash foot the yearly bill for five deputies to fill one 24/7 position, patrolling the reservation but available for off-reservation emergencies in the Santa Ynez Valley; the tribe will also cover the costs of a patrol vehicle and an office. The contract will go into effect in January and be good through June 2034. The tribe wasn’t willing to waive their sovereign immunity, as the lack of a waiver wouldn’t allow the county to sue if necessary; County Counsel Mike Ghizzoni said that remained an issue but that the contract was a “good business decision” for the county.
Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said she had some “misgivings” about the agreement but was comforted by a longstanding contract between the tribe and County Fire. Farr also had Ghizzoni add a stipulation to the agreement that the contract wasn’t an “affirmative support” of the tribe’s Camp 4 application.