Court denies training center's temporary restraining order
A federal judge ruled Friday that the Los Coyotes Band of Mission Indians can evict a military training center off its North County reservation.
The Eagle Rock Training Center is the site where a fire started July 21 and burned about 22 square miles.
The firm, which leased the land on the reservation for the training facility, filed a lawsuit in federal court Sept. 15 after the tribe attempted to evict the business from the reservation.
Attorneys for Eagle Rock asked the Judge William Q. Hayes to issue a temporary restraining order to keep the tribe from pushing them out.
On Friday, Hayes denied their request.
At issue is whether the tribe's then-chairwoman, Francine Kupsch, had the authority to agree to the lease on behalf of the tribe.
Hayes said she did not.
"ERTC has failed to present any evidence to show that the Los Coyotes General Council authorized any version of the lease," Hayes wrote.
Sean Roach, Eagle Rock's CEO, declined to comment Friday night.
After the tribe gave the training center an eviction notice in June, Eagle Rock officials said in court documents that they attempted to negotiate with the tribe to clarify the lease agreement, but that tribal officials "failed to negotiate in good faith," according to the lawsuit.
Earlier this month, Mark Radoff, an attorney for Los Coyotes, told the North County Times that the tribe can not be sued because of sovereign immunity and that there was no lease agreement because it was never approved by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Eagle Rock officials said in court documents that they were told the tribal council had voted and approved the lease and that the chairwoman signed a lease agreement that included a waiver of the tribe's sovereign immunity.
Hayes cited previous rulings that say "sovereign immunity cannot be implied but must be unequivocally expressed" and that there is a "strong presumption against waiver of tribal sovereign immunity."
The firm also alleged that the dispute over the lease agreement and the tensions it created between the tribe and the company may have led to the fire.
Two tribal members were arrested shortly after the fire and charged with arson for setting a guard shack belonging to Eagle Rock on fire. Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
"Members of Los Coyotes even threatened to take matters into their own hands if ERTC did not vacate the property," according to court documents. "Tragically, such threats came to fruition when the tribe allowed certain tribal members to take matters into their own hands by pouring gasoline on the ERTC's security booth and lighting it on fire."