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Disputed Dry Creek tribal members lose appeal of disenrollment

  • Laila DeRouen, right, arrives for a hearing to challenge her pending disenrollment at the Dry Creek Rancheria office accompanied by her attorney Anthony Cohen, and her mother Liz Elgin DeRouen, in Santa Rosa on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. ((Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat))

Two longtime Dry Creek Rancheria members who were running for office in a high-profile political battle learned Thursday they lost their appeal to stay in the tribe.

Carmen Cordova Soltanizadeh and Laila Elgin DeRouen said they were informed the Dry Creek board of directors voted 3-2 to disenroll them from the approximate 1,100-member tribe.

“We've been members our entire life,” said DeRouen, 29. “There's absolutely no basis for what they've done.”

“I am who I am, not because of them,” said Soltanizadeh, 34. “We've been a part of the reservation since it begun.”

Soltanizadeh said the first indication she got that the vote was against her was Thursday morning, when her $650 monthly per capita payment for being a tribal member was taken out of her bank account.

“It was put in, then reversed. That's how I knew the decision was made,” she said.

But by Thursday afternoon, she was informed the money, which is generated by Dry Creek's River Rock Casino, was redeposited by tribal officials who decided she would get the final payment after all, despite her disenrollment.

“By putting it in and taking it out, it was a slap in the face,” she said.

The dispute over the status of the two women led to the postponement of tribal elections in November.

DeRouen was running for secretary-treasurer of the five-member tribal board. Soltanizadeh was a candidate for tribal gaming commission.

The two women claim they were selectively disenrolled because they were challenging members of the salaried board who are up for re-election.

Tribal Chairman Harvey Hopkins, who is running for re-election, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

But he and other tribal leaders said previously there is an automatic vetting of all candidates for office to ensure they are legitimate members of the tribe.

The two women are daughters of previous chairpersons, Liz Elgin DeRouen and Stan Cordova, who were among 30 members kicked out of the tribe in a wave of controversial disenrollments.

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