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County Supervisors Reject Contract for Law Enforcement on Chumash Reservation, Santa Ynez Valley

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected a proposed agreement between the county Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians to provide law enforcement services on the reservation and the Santa Ynez Valley.

The proposed contract for law enforcement services, if approved, would have provided nearly $850,000 annually to the Sheriff’s Department for the funding of five full-time deputy positions beginning next month.

The board voted 3-2 in favor of rejecting the contract, with Supervisors Doreen Farr, Janet Wolf and Peter Adam opposing the agreement.

“It’s amazing to me that we have to ask you to take our money to provide services that are extremely important to not only the reservation but the entire Santa Ynez Valley,” Vincent Armenta, tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, told the board Tuesday. “In light of the concerns for public safety in the last 12 months, particularly in Supervisor Doreen Farr’s own district of Isla Vista, you would think she would be more aware of the importance of crime and safety issues. It just really comes down to a lack of respect for the tribe. It wasn’t surprising that she and Janet Wolf would vote against it. We won’t be renegotiating this contract.”

The proposed $849,131 funding agreement between the Sheriff’s Department and the tribe was created to make up for the loss of grant monies from the state’s Special Distribution Fund (SDF) that had originally gone to Santa Barbara county, its cities and fire and law enforcement agencies.

The SDF was established in 1999 with the tribal state compacts. It was designed to help local governments handle off-reservation impacts of tribal gaming by permitting cities and counties to apply for grants funded by tribal contributions to the state SDF. From 2003 to 2011, Santa Barbara County received approximately $1.4 million annually in local government grants. Most of the grants went to law enforcement and fire protection. The grants to the Santa Barbara Sheriff Department from 2003 to 2011 averaged more than $550,000 per year.

In 2011, the state SDF began to pull money from the local mitigation grant funds resulting in a loss of more than half of the monies that were originally going to the counties and cities. The SDF grant monies were then used to partially fund the sheriff until a separate funding agreement could be reached. The sheriff department has only received about $100,000 a year for the past three budget years.

In addition to the five full-time deputy sheriff positions the nearly $850,000 funding agreement would have also covered the cost for an annual vehicle and a one-time purchase of a new sheriff’s vehicle.

Among the arguments opposing the agreement brought up by Third District Supervisor Farr and Second District Supervisor Wolf was the area the specific area that would be policed. Sheriff Bill Brown told the board his agency already provides law enforcement services for the reservation and surrounding areas.

“The tribe is asking to pay for a service that we are providing,” Sheriff Brown told the board. “The reality is that we are going to provide that service whether you approve this contract or not.”

Board Chairman and Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, who voted for the contract, said the concerns about the 6.9 acres being included in the agreement was a “smokescreen.”

“We’re talking about a six-acre field,” Supervisor Lavagnino said. “I understand there has been some controversy in the past and I understand the need for questions. This one, I don’t understand. The tribe is willing to pony up new funds. The question is, is the tribe going to pay or are the constituents going to pay?”

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians owns and operates several businesses in Santa Barbara County, including the Chumash Casino Resort, Hotel Corque, Root 246, the Hadsten House and two gas stations.

— Mike Traphagen is a public relations specialist for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.


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