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Small California Town Recall - Latest Chapter of Lone Dispute


SACRAMENTO, Calif. - In the latest chapter of a story that has many twists
and turns, the residents of the tiny town of Plymouth, located in the
Sierra Nevada foothills, successfully recalled their mayor and two city
council members over an agreement to build a casino there.

This is the most recent development of a story that has reverberations at
the local, state and federal levels. It all centers on a proposed casino by
the Ione Band of Miwok Indians in the town of Plymouth.

The now ousted city council members were among the majority of council
members that had reached an agreement with the tribe to allow them to build
a casino in Amador County. This had put them in opposition to the Amador
County Board of Supervisors who opposed the project.

However, what seems on the surface to be a simple disagreement between
community members and the tribe is in actuality as deep and complicated as
the canyons that cut through the Sierra Nevada.

First off, there is a dispute over who the real Ione Band of Miwok Indians
are. Two factions are claiming to be the legitimate tribe. The official BIA
recognized tribal council is led by Matthew Franklin and the other calls
themselves the "traditional" Ione Band of Miwok Indians and is led by Nick
Villa, who claims to be the hereditary chief.

It was the Franklin faction that made the casino deal with the now ousted
Plymouth city council members while the Villa group opposed it. In fact,
the Villa group claims that the Franklin faction is predominantly
carpetbaggers from dissolved area tribes that were installed on the tribal
roles by the BIA in the 1990s.

This has led to still unanswered charges against the BIA's Sacramento
offices that one of their officials, Amy Dutschke, had installed several of
her own relatives and allies onto the tribal rolls. A federal investigation
is currently looking into the matter. Franklin reports that the results of
the investigation will come forth in the near future, and he feels
confident that it will exonerate his faction.

Another tentacle of this complex story is the claim by Villa and his wife
Joan that casino financing is being promoted by Republican party political
operative Roger Stone.

Though Stone denied any current connection to the Ione casino in a March
letter to Indian Country Today, a recent article in the New York-based
Village Voice claimed Stone was involved in the project until at least
early last year. Both Villa and the Voice article point out that the name
of the casino group matches the name of Stone's Washington-based firm,

Joan Villa said that her faction is "thrilled" by the recall and claims
that the ousted city council "just ignored every challenge that we ever

"Finally, this little tribe [the Villa faction] has an indirect victory
over them [the Franklin faction]," said Villa.

Elida Malnick-Marone was one of the successful Plymouth recall replacement
candidates. Though her campaign was against the casino she said that she
does not oppose tribal economic development but did not like the idea of
one in the center of the small town.

"The main thing is that a small town like Plymouth cannot handle a large
scale project like this, right now, we want to move this outside of the
center of town," said Malnick-Marone.

Matthew Franklin, the chairman of the BIA-recognized faction, said that he
expects the new city council to "honor their agreement" with the tribe.
Though the new members of the city council have already said they want to
rescind the agreement, Franklin said that he will conduct
"government-to-government" talks with the new city council and is hopeful
that they can resolve any issues.

Franklin also disputes the Villa's claims that political operative Roger
Stone is involved and said that his faction has never had any dealings with
Stone. Instead he alleges that Stone had dealt with the Villa faction to
build a casino prior to finding out that they were not recognized by the
BIA, at which point Stone pulled out.

Stone generally concurs with Franklin's account and wrote to Indian Country
Today in a current letter that he signed an agreement with Nick Villa in
2000 and backed out after discovering that Villa was the recognized leader.

"On December 20, 2000, the 9th Circuit Court rejected an appeal by Nicholas
Villa Jr. over the question of the leadership of the Ione Band. This
decision specifically voided our Memorandum of Understanding," wrote Stone
who went on to say that he signed no subsequent deal with the Villa

Joan Villa admits that her faction did have an initial agreement with Stone
but denies that a casino in Amador County was part of the deal. She said
that they needed a "few hundred thousand" dollars to pay for legal expenses
against the Franklin faction which she claimed had "millions of dollars"
and only had a general understanding that the tribe would eventually build
a casino somewhere in their Aboriginal territory outside of Amador County.