A Sacramento area-based group and a Madera County resident filed a lawsuit in Madera County Superior Court last week in an attempt to stop the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians from building a casino in Madera County off Highway 99.
The suit was filed March 27 with Penryn-based Stand Up for California! and Madera County resident Barbara Leach listed as the plaintiffs and Gov. Jerry Brown as the defendant.
On Aug. 31, 2012, Brown concurred with the Department of Interior/Bureau of Indian Affairs’ decision to put the land off of Highway 99 into federal trust for the tribe to build a casino.
The group challenges the governor’s authority to concur in this instance.
“There is no constitutional law or state statute to grant concurrence for gaming to an Indian tribe to put a casino on land that is not on their Indian land,” said Cheryl Schmit, director of Stand Up for California!
The lawsuit is seeking a judgment from the court to void the governor’s concurrence and prevent the compact from going to the state legislature for ratification.
Stand Up for California! is also involved in a lawsuit currently in federal court against the U.S. Department of the Interior, Secretary of Interior Kenneth Salazar, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, challenging the decision to the put the land off Highway 99 into trust for the casino.
There was also a lawsuit filed by the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians against the governor that stated he failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act because of the concurrence.
The tribe feels certain the new lawsuit will not derail the project.
"While we don't comment on pending litigation, we remain confident that this third suit by the same group of opponents will not hinder or delay our project given that two gubernatorial administrations, two federal administrations, four interior secretaries, and nine assistant secretaries have all reviewed the facts and approved our project and the land is now in trust for our Tribe," said Elaine Bethel-Fink, the tribal chairwoman of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians.
Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler shared his dissatisfaction regarding the suit being filed.
"We find it disappointing that folks from a different part of the state—Placer County—would be behind efforts to derail and delay the economic plans and aspirations of Madera County," Wheeler said. "We need the jobs, vendor business, public funding, and economic push that the North Fork project will bring to our region, and every single day of further delay costs our region about $300,000 in lost economic benefits."