Chukchansi Tribe leadership feud spills into casino operation

A leadership dispute within the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians of California is affecting the tribe's gaming operation.

The tribe is in danger of defaulting on $12 million in bonds related to the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, The Fresno Bee reports. The bank that holds funds to pay down the notes won't release the money until the two factions resolve their dispute, the paper said.

The National Indian Gaming Commission is being drawn into the matter as well. A new lawsuit filed by one faction alleges the agency failed to approve the tribe's gaming ordinances because the other faction withdrew them without authority.

Morris Reid, who says he is chairman of the tribe, filed the suit. He claims the rival group led by Reggie Lewis has taken control of the casino.

"A group of incumbent tribal council members, who lost the ruling majority in the December 3, 2011, election, has prevented the duly elected Reid council from assuming its legitimate governance position since the election," the Reid complaint states. "The Lewis group maintained its control over the tribe by moving the tribal government into the casino to exploit the casino security and resources, and through threats, violence, intimidation, withdrawal of tribal benefits, and disenrollment."

In a somewhat similar case, the NIGC in 2003 ordered the Meskwaki Tribe to shut down its casino in Iowa because rival groups claimed control of the operation. The casino reopened after the dispute was resolved.

Turtle Talk has posted the complaint in the Reid case, Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians v. Stevens.

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Default looms for Chukchansi casino mired in political fight (The Fresno Bee 4/2)

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