On Monday, June 9th at 6 am, the Paskenta Tribal Council began physically closing the Rolling Hills Casino. It will remain closed until Tribal Council can resolve the disputes within the Paskenta Tribe and remedy the illegal operation of the Casino by unauthorized management and attorneys.
"Our number one priority is public safety, and that is why the physical closure of the Casino is necessary. It is not safe," said Paskenta Tribal Council Vice Chairman David Swearinger. "Until we are sure that the Casino is safe, we ask the public to allow the Tribe to resolve this internal matter. Once order is restored, Rolling Hills Casino will reopen and provide the public with the gaming experience it has come to expect."
The closure was initiated by the Tribal Police Department, at the direction of the Paskenta Tribal Council. Utilizing a system of barricades and a clear police presence, the Tribe has been turning away customers, eliminating the threat to public safety and ensuring patrons and employees are out of harm’s way.
"This police action is being conducted without direct conflict with the armed security force that has occupied the property for nearly nine weeks," said Paskenta Deputy Police Chief Erik Nilssen. "The property will be closed until the Tribal Council directs the Paskenta Police Department to stand down."
The operation is in response to the military-style armed takeover of the casino and other tribal properties by non-tribal forces on April 12. At that time, the management of the Rolling Hills Casino and then-Chairman Andy Freeman attempted to take over the Tribe’s government and enterprises. They also attempted to banish certain members of the Paskenta Nomlaki Tribe and its tribal council. That attempt was unlawful under the Tribal Constitution and federal law.
The Tribal Council that existed on April 11, was made up of five people. Four of five of those people are still united as the Tribal Council. One of those people, Andy Freeman, has refused to participate in Tribal Council business and, with rogue management of the Casino, has attempted to run it as their own private enterprise.
On May 16, after repeated attempts at reconciliation with Mr. Freeman, the Tribal Council voted to close the Casino. The action was in response to the fact it was being illegally operated by someone other than the Tribe, as recognized by the National Indian Gaming Commission in a letter dated April 21, putting it out of compliance with the state compact and federal laws, and jeopardizing the casino's operating license.
The Management of the Casino did not follow Tribal Council direction.
During that time, the Tribal Police Department, under the leadership of then Chief Clay Parker, conducted an investigation of casino management activities, which yielded a series of reports detailing a culture of criminal activity and regulatory breeches by those in control of the casino.
After several attempts to resolve the conflict through internal and external political and regulatory mechanisms, the Tribal Council gave direction to the Police Department to find an appropriate, safe way to take the casino back.
Following several tactical reviews to determine the most prudent action, with the least conflict, keeping public safety as the first priority – the Tribal Council approved the action which began Monday at dawn.
"Given the inaction by officials at all levels of government, and the renegade group's refusal to negotiate, the Tribe had to take matters into our own hands," Swearinger said. "We are pleased the action is seeing success and, most importantly, we are relieved it is providing a safe remedy to an explosive situation."
All actions taken today have been in coordination with the Tehama County Sheriff's Dept.
"I want to thank the Tehama Sheriff's Department for providing oversight and presence to ensure communication was clear and everyone is keeping a cool head," Nilssen noted.
Since Friday of last week, the Paskenta Police Department has been working with the Tehama Sheriff's Department to function as an observer and to assist with communications.
Tribal Council members have committed to work toward resolution of the conflict with internal discussions, in keeping with the Paskenta Constitution.