Sunday, April 28, 2013
CA Rep. Tom McClintock REFUSES to Get Involved in Chukchansi Dispute. Won't Stand up For Disenrolled Native American.
CA Rep. Tom McClintock.
The struggle by feuding factions for control of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians -- and its Highway 41 casino assets -- took a new twist last week when one faction announced the results of a referendum to determine who is in charge and also called on the federal government to take a more active role in settling the ongoing dispute.
The group led by Reggie Lewis now claims to have regained control of the tribal council, based on the tribal referendum and a council vote last Thursday.
But the opposing faction, led by council member Nancy Ayala, questions whether the referendum that returned Lewis and others to the council was legal.
Confusion over who are the rightfully elected tribal council members led Rabobank to freeze the tribe's bank account, preventing it from making a complete payment this month on bonds for Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino.
Gaming experts estimate that the Chukchansi casino, which opened in 2003 off Highway 41 near Coarsegold, hauls in about $9 million a month from slot machines and table games. A portion of those proceeds go to tribal members as monthly benefits and also to pay off bond indebtedness.
Even though the multi-year dispute has exploded in several violent skirmishes, including a riot in February 2012 and recent reports of shots fired on a process server, federal officials say they are keeping their hands off.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, whose 4th Congressional District includes the Coarsegold area, met briefly Friday with Chukchansi members and told them he doesn't take sides on tribal disputes, said his press secretary, Bill George.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is precluded from stepping into the fray pending an appeal by a third faction led by Morris Reid to the U.S. Department of Interior's Board of Indian Appeals over proposed casino operation amendments, BIA spokesman Harley Long said.