The FRESNO BEE continues its fine reporting on the Chukchansi issue. The Chukchansi Council is well know for stripping their tribe of over 75% of their membership, leaving elders in the cold because of greed. Those greedy factions, like jackals and vultures are still fighting over the scraps.
The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has finally stepped into the feud over control of the Picayune
Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians — and its lucrative Highway 41 casino — by identifying Nancy Ayala as the tribe's leader.
No so fast, said an attorney for one of Ayala's two adversaries, Reggie Lewis, who also wants control of the Madera County tribe and its estimated haul of $9 million a month from slot machines and table games.Robert Rosette, who represents Lewis, said Monday that the BIA only ruled that the Dec. 1 tribal electionwas valid; it did not establish Ayala as the current tribal leader.
"The BIA puts us one step closer to resolution," Rosette said.
A Fresno federal judge will rule this week who is the rightful leader.
For years, factions led by Ayala, Lewis and Morris Reid have vied for power. Though the dispute has
exploded in several violent skirmishes, including a riot in February 2012, the BIA took a hands-off
In March, dispute over who are the rightfully elected tribal council members led Rabobank to freeze the
tribe's bank account. This put the tribe at risk of defaulting on roughly $310 million in bonds for Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino near Coarsegold.
Ayala's group blamed Lewis and his faction for the delay in bond payments. Under Ayala's leadership, the tribe figured out a plan to make bond payments, but members still fight over who's in charge.
In April, the Ayala faction filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Fresno, asking the court to recognize it as the rightful leaders. Federal Judge Michael J. Seng is mulling over the issue.
That same month, the BIA got involved when Reid submitted grant proposals on behalf of the tribe. In a May 17 letter to Reid, the BIA informed him that his faction does not represent the tribe's governing council.
In the letter, the BIA ruled that the Dec. 1 election was valid and said the governing body "authorized to
conduct government to government with the BIA" comprises: Ayala, chair; Lewis, vice chair; Tracy
Brechbuehl, secretary; Karen Wynn, treasurer; and members-at-large Chance Alberta, Charles Sargosa
and Carl "Buzz" Bushman.
Because Ayala's supporters include Brechbuehl, Wynn and Sargosa, she has a four-vote majority to run
the tribe, she contends. Alberta and Bushman support Lewis.
Monday, Reid said he has filed an appeal to the BIA ruling. He also said he is seeking legal standing in the tribe's federal case.
"We are still key players," said Reid, who has been involved in tribal leadership — and upheavals — since the 1990s when the Chukchansi casino was first planned. It opened in June 2003.
Read more about Picayune Rancheria here