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River Rock Casino is in Compliance with the Uniform Fire Code.

Business Editors

HEALDSBURG, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 10, 2002

The River Rock Casino is safe for its patrons and it has been cleared by federal, state and tribal fire inspectors.

The River Rock Casino has met every fire and safety code requirement under federal and state law and then some. Sonoma County's Fire Chief, Vern Losh, has no right to ignore federal law and claim his own jurisdiction over the Dry Creek Rancheria River Rock Casino project, say tribal leaders and attorneys.

Efforts of tribal leaders and their legal counsel Oct. 9 to meet on a government-to-government basis with Sonoma County to address Losh's and the County's purported concerns over fire safety on the Tribe's Rancheria were frustrated by Losh's and Sonoma County's refusal to recognize the County's lack of jurisdiction over the Tribe's lands.

The Tribal-State Gaming Compact in effect between the Tribe and the State of California has been federally authorized and is governing federal and state law. The Compact contains extensive provisions for the building, safety and fire code requirements used on a uniform basis on federal projects and throughout the United States, compliance with which has been fully met.

Additional requests from state inspectors have also been accommodated. In the area of building and safety codes, including fire safety, the Compact clearly provides that "nothing herein shall be deemed to confer jurisdiction upon any county." That is simply the law.

"Not only is Chief Losh's assumption illegal," said Liz Elgin DeRouen, chairwoman of the Dry Creek Rancheria, "but it is unfair and unfounded."

"We see it as politically motivated," said Jerry Levine, attorney at Holland & Knight, legal counsel to the Tribe. "It's not more complicated than a few people trying to keep the Dry Creek Tribe from becoming successful and self-reliant. And in the area of building and safety, the Tribe has met all federal, state and tribal standards."

Levine went on to point out that the Geyserville Fire Department, the National Indian Gaming Commission, the State Fire Marshal's office, the State Attorney General's office, and the Governor's office, have worked closely with the Tribe. On Sept. 17, the Governor's office and the Attorney General's office gave the Tribe a public approval. Nathan Barankin, spokesperson for Attorney General Bill Lockyer, said that "a state fire marshal inspected the casino and found it up to code."

The Dry Creek Tribe has been working hand-in-hand with the Geyserville Fire Department for generations. With the construction of the new River Rock Casino, Dean Turberville, and other members in the department, attend weekly meetings with the Tribe, Casino management and their architectural, construction and compliance consultants.

"Their recommendations are helpful," said Leon Manuel, the Tribe's Code Inspector.

"There is an assumption from Mr. Losh, that all the work done by Geyserville's Fire Department, the State Fire Marshal and other Sonoma County officials, is inadequate," said Chairwoman DeRouen. "I would think they would be offended."

Tribal and casino officials say that they are willing to continue working with Sonoma County on a government-to-government basis to mitigate legitimate concerns about the River Rock project, but after the Oct. 9 meeting, are not hopeful.

"In a series of meetings over a two-year period, we met with the County to negotiate a Memorandum of Agreement in which we would provide financial assistance to Sonoma County for fire and emergency work, but the County unilaterally called off further discussions this summer," said DeRouen. "In the Memorandum, we thought the financial commitment the County demanded was excessive, but we agreed to it in principle because we were trying to cooperate and felt that the payments would benefit all citizens of Sonoma County. We can't understand why they have turned their backs and walked away from our talks.

"We have said before and we say again, the Tribe remains willing and able to resume talks, negotiations and other levels of legal concern, as soon as members of the County stop ignorance-based attacks on the Tribe and show a willingness to return to the table in the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation," DeRouen offered.

In the meantime, the Tribe will continue its cooperative relationship with the Geyserville Fire District to ensure that the River Rock Casino remains safe for tribal members, casino employees and the public.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Oct 10, 2002
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