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Monday, October 27, 2014
Fresno BEE: Kamala Harris' Office WIll ask Feds to KEEP CHUKCHANSI CLOSED Due to Endangered Public
The Attorney General Kamala Harris' office will ask a Fresno federal judge on Wednesday to keep Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino closed until state officials are convinced that the tribe can run the casino without endangering patrons and employees.
Attorney General Kamala Harris
“All evidence points to the tensions and confrontations continuing, not abating,” said a 14-page brief filed by deputy state attorney general William Torngren. The state’s brief asks U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill to issue a preliminary injunction that would essentially extend the current closure until the tribe can ensure that weapons are kept away from the Coarsegold casino, and patrons, employees and tribal members are safe.
On Oct. 10, the National Indian Gaming Commission and state Attorney General closed the casino after an armed clash by the security forces of the Tex McDonald and Reggie Lewis factions the night before. The scuffle forced 500 patrons and employees from the 1,800-slot, 40-table casino and hotel.
The McDonald group’s entry was prompted by a federal gaming commission order filed two days earlier that threatened to close the casino on Oct. 27 because the tribe failed to submit audits for 2012 and 2013. The commission also threatened the tribe with fines that could exceed $16 million and would climb by up to $100,000 each day the tribe fails to comply. After the closure, the commission filed an additional violation against the tribe, that could add another$25,000 a day in fines.
Late Monday, the federal gaming commission confirmed that it has received the casino’s audits and was reviewing them to determine whether they comply with federal requirements.
The McDonald group is housed at the tribe’s business complex across the road from the casino and hotel. The McDonald group had been running the hotel and casino for much of the year until August, when Lewis group members entered the casino in the wee hours of the morning and holed up in the hotel’s 10th and 11th floors, where some tribal offices are located. The McDonald group claims it wanted to go into offices in the casino on Oct. 9 to gather audit information.
The state says it’s now up to tribal officials to resolve the dispute.
“The keys to reopening the casino are in the tribe’s hands,” Torngren’s brief said.
So far, however, the tribal factions have made little progress, according to a declaration filed by Joginder Dhillon, senior adviser for tribal negotiations for Gov. Jerry Brown.
“Despite the (restraining order’s) apparent success, the groups in the intra-tribal dispute have not resolved their dispute and remain poised to take actions that could threaten public safety,” Dhillon’s declaration said.
The tribe’s three factions held a settlement conference Friday in front of U.S. District Court Magistrate Dennis Beck and no progress was reported. While not under a formal gag order, members of the factions said they were asked to keep details of Friday’s settlement conference confidential. They return to O’Neill’s court again on Wednesday.
Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said that getting the casino open is the tribe’s incentive to get along.
“Perhaps it will force the tribe to get its act together and do something positive,” he said.