Tule Lake Committee seeks injunction to stop
Herald and News by Lee Juillerat,
The Tule Lake Committee filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District
Court Tuesday for the Eastern District of California in
Sacramento seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the City of
Tulelake from selling the Tulelake airport to the Modoc Tribe of
Following a closed meeting to discuss three purchase offers and
a public hearing on July 31, the council sold the ground under
the airport, which is “sponsored” by Modoc County, to the Tribe
During the hearing, it was explained the $17,500 was the cost of
Tulelake’s legal fees for completing the transaction.
After learning the city council had voted to approve the sale at
a first reading earlier in July, the Tule Lake Committee offered
$40,000 and promised to drop legal action against the city. The
committee has filed suits opposing plans to build a three-mile
long, eight-foot high fence around the 358-acre airport. Modoc
County also made a verbal offer to match the Oklahoma tribe’s
offer. Neither offer was discussed during the public session.
Following the public meeting, however, Tulelake Mayor Hank
Ebinger said the Tule Lake Committee and Modoc County offers
were fully discussed during the half-hour closed session.
Ebinger had no comment Wednesday on the injunction request
pending discussions with Michael Colantuono, the attorney who is
handling the potential sale.
If the Federal Aviation Administration does not oppose the sale
or if the district court does not approve the intervention
request, the transfer will become final at the end of the 30
days, or about Aug. 30.
The action filed by the Tule Lake Committee challenges the
unanimous council decision and claims the council failed to
respond to requests it made to discuss the possible sale to the
committee made in January and February.
“We expressed our interest several times,” said Barbara Takei,
the Committee’s chief financial officer said Wednesday. “A
lawsuit is the last thing we wanted to do but when your concerns
are dismissed there’s no other recourse. It’s sad it’s come to
In a statement, Takei noted the airport lands occupy two-thirds
of the historic World War II Tule Lake Detention-Segregation
Center site, where upwards of 18,000 Japanese Americans,
two-thirds of them U.S. citizens.
According to her statement, “The City’s secretive closed
meetings, its non-responses to the Committee’s inquiries and
offers, its negotiations exclusively with the Tribe, its refusal
to allow the Committee to have an agenda item to discuss its
purchase offer, and its Ordinance that designated the Tribe as
the purchaser, suggest that the vote on July 31 was a mere
formality for an already-made decision.
“The City of Tulelake gave the Tule Lake Committee scant notice
and no meaningful opportunity to be heard. The lawsuit asks the
Court to ensure our concerns about the lack of consideration,
due process and transparency are addressed.”
Takei also said the Tulelake City Council “wants to sell the
lands under the airport to defendant Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, an
entity connected by federal court judgments to repeated criminal
frauds and frauds on courts, and an entity in active disregard
of state and federal laws.”
The statement also criticizes the Tribe’s legal problems.
According to the request for injunction, the Oklahoma Tribe has
been fined $4.2 million dollars for its involvement in payday
lending schedule schemes determined as fraudulent.
The suit notes, “Based on the Tribe’s previous statements about
the World War II history, abusive business model, and extralegal
behavior, one might expect the tribe to push the legal envelope,
using tribal sovereignty to try to avoid regulation by the
environmental and historic preservations laws that have
protected the historic Tule Lake concentration site.”
In her statement, Takei said during the public hearing the
“concern about Tule Lake as a nationally significant human and
civil rights historic site was not evident, noting attorney
Colantuono “repeatedly referred to the historic site as ‘a piece
of dirt’ and that Blake Follis, the Tribe’s representative, said
the Tribe’s priority would be to do “anything to support
In the statement, Takei also said Follis has “repeatedly
expressed indifference, even hostility toward preserving the
Tule Lake historic site, arguing, ‘Japanese Americans had it
much better than we did.’ ”
Email, text messages and phone calls to Follis were not
Takei said a hearing date for the injunction may be announced in
the next few days.
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