Amid an epic battle for control of a Northern California tribe and its lucrative casino, a new audit is leveling allegations that former tribal leaders mismanaged millions of dollars of assets in improper spending, salaries and poorly researched investments for the past dozen years.Read Full Article in Sacramento Bee
The audit for the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians, which runs the Rolling Hills Casino near Corning off Interstate 5 and has been deeply split between two factions, found that council leaders “have fallen far short of their legal and ethical obligations to the tribe” by incurring expenses that include $17 million in private jet travel – some of which appeared to be for personal and family business – and $450,000 for tickets to the World Series, college basketball’s Final Four and other sporting events.
The release of the audit comes as 216 adult members of the tribe prepare for a Sept. 13 vote on who should run the tribal council and a dispute over who are its legal members. The council oversees distribution of $54,000 in casino revenue annually for each member of the band.
“I think it speaks for itself,” tribal Treasurer Ambrosia Rico said of the audit by WilmerHale, a Washington, D.C., law firm that said it acted on behalf of the tribe rather than either faction. “I mean, seriously, it’s pretty clear as to where our money has gone and what’s happened to it and who spent it.”
But one of the ousted officials disputed whether the audit was fair and said it failed to take into account the part he played in getting the tribe’s federal recognition renewed in 1994 or his leadership in establishing the casino.
“They’re not objective,” former economic development director John Crosby said. “You can spin those things a lot of different ways, and that’s what I believe happened in that report …
“Tribes don’t look like the corporate world.”
The tribe’s turmoil stems from the annual General Council meeting April 12 during which tribal Chairman Andrew Freeman suspended three council members and dozens of other members over what he said were questions of their eligibility.
Since then, the ousted council members and those who replaced them have fought for control in a conflict that has included an armed standoff between the two factions outside the casino, a restraining order by a federal judge and claims of a cyberattack that destroyed some casino computer records.
The 78-page WilmerHale audit, which was dated Monday and released to tribal members, is the product of a mediated settlement between the two factions that called for an independent audit.
Freeman said Tuesday that both sides agreed during mediation that WilmerHale would conduct the audit and that the firm “is respected by the whole tribe.”