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Wednesday, May 21, 2014
PALA RESERVATION in TURMOIL. Robert Smith's Spokesperson DOUG ELMETS Hasn't Deserted The SINKING SHIP
Well the Union Tribune has finally covered the activities at the PALA RESERVATION.
An apparent power struggle has erupted at the Pala Indian Reservation after a group of tribal members claimed to have ousted the tribal council and installed a new executive panel.
Tribe spokesman Doug Elmets said Tuesday morning that the claims are untrue and that a meeting held by the group Saturday was illegal and lacked a quorum, so any action taken was invalid. He said only about 23 tribal members attended the meeting; other reports put the number at roughly 70.
“The effort by this small, disgruntled group has had zero impact on tribal operations and its business enterprises,” Elmets said.
But the reservation has been buzzing for days with talk about the dissent. On Monday, more than a dozen sheriff’s patrol cars were parked on tribal land; sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said they were there because of the dispute between the two councils.
Members of the group challenging the Pala tribe’s leadership said Tuesday they are fed up with Tribal Chairman Robert Smith and other members of the tribal council, who they say have refused to answer questions about the tribe’s finances and business dealings.
Smith did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.
“There are a lot of allegations of misconduct,” said Greg Mojado, a spokesman for the group. “But the reason this transpired was because people had a lot of questions and they had no recourse. Every time they would go to the tribal office to try to get on the agenda or get an audience with the executive committee … they were shot down.”
The Pala tribe owns and operates the Pala Casino Spa & Resort, one of the largest casinos in the county, east of Interstate 15 on state Route 76. It has over 900 tribal members. The tribe has also been embroiled in disenrollment disputes in recent years. About 150 people were removed from the tribe two years ago, including various members of former Chairman King Freeman’s family.
The latest dispute surfaced early last week when challengers posted notices around the reservation, saying they were calling an “emergency meeting” of tribal members for Saturday, May 17, to talk about the leadership problems.
Mojado said the emergency meeting was legal under the tribe’s protocol, which requires a public notification three days in advance and at least 25 tribal members present at the meeting for a quorum.
But almost as soon as the notices went up, Smith’s office posted its own letter, warning that the meeting would be illegal and any action taken there would be invalid.
Smith’s letter said a petition signed by 10 percent of the tribe’s voting members, 643, was needed to properly call for the meeting. He also wrote that the five members of the executive committee would have to be present before any votes could take place.
More than 70 tribal members showed up to the meeting anyway — roughly three times the 25 required for a quorum, Mojado said.
During the meeting held Saturday afternoon, those present voted to suspend the executive committee, also known as the tribal council, which includes the chairman, and various other government and gambling oversight bodies, Mojado said