Chukchansi Tribe can't remove rivals from office near casino

The Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold, California, has been closed since October 2014. Photo from Facebook

The Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians remains divided into rival factions, an issue that could affect tribe's efforts to reopen its casino in northern California.

Chairman Reggie Lewis and his council control the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino. The facility was shut down last October after rivals factions clashed there.

Lewis is negotiating with federal and state officials in hopes of reopening the casino. His group claimed that the presence of a rival faction at an office directly across from the building was affecting those talks.

But Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill said he lacked authority to remove the group. Their presence wasn't endangering the "public health, safety, or welfare" so he determined that he can't take action under the Class III gaming compact.

"Because of the nature of the compact language upon which this Court’s jurisdiction rests, the injunctive relief in place in this case is limited by the scope of the safety hazard addressed by the injunction," the decision stated.

Tex McDonald. Photo from Facebook

The rival faction is associated with former chairman Tex McDonald, who was recently released from jail in connection with the incident that led to the closure of the casino. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge for his role in the dispute.

While McDonald remains active with his council, he no longer serves as chairman. He also told KFSN that he has not attempted to go to the casino out of fear it could escalate tensions on the reservation.

Get the Story:
Judge can’t rule to remove group from Chukchansi business complex (The Fresno Bee 7/23)
Judge Wades no Further Into Tribal Fight (Courthouse News Service 7/22)

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