Timbisha Shoshone Tribe awaits city's decision on casino land sale

The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe is based in Death Valley in California. Photo by Kristi Cole-Smith‎

A controversy appears to be brewing over plans by the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe to open a casino in Ridgecrest, California.

Emails obtained by the local media and residents show that city officials have been pushing for the project. While that in and of itself might not be an issue, some question whether the city has already agreed to approve the casino without consulting the public.

But Gary Parsons, the city's economic development manager, rejects assertions that he is biased towards the casino. He told The Ridgecrest Independent that he has just been doing his job.

"In terms of me doing my job and quote unquote greasing the wheels. That is me doing my job," Parsons told the paper. "My job is to bring business into to town, to bring jobs and revenue into the city."

The emails in questions do not appear to have been published anywhere. The Independent, however, said it didn't find a 'smoking gun" among the 700-plus messages.

The Ridecrest News Review was less generous and said the emails showed a "questionable relationship" between city officials and the casino developer.

The tribe already won the city's approval for an intergovernmental agreement. The tribe is now asking for approval to buy about 24.6 acres of city-owned land for $5.5 million.

The sale will be discussed at a city council meeting on Wednesday evening.

The tribe's reservation is based in Death Valley National Park, about 122 miles from Ridgecrest. But development options are extremely limited there due to restrictions in federal law.

The Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act anticipates that the tribe might indeed look elsewhere for land. A provision requires the Bureau of Indian Affairs to work with the tribe on selecting a "parcel mutually agreed upon" that can be placed into trust.

Read More on the Story:
'That is me doing my job:' Parsons, O'Neill and White defend casino process (The Ridgecrest Daily Independent 9/7)
Casino emails: bias and information delays but no smoking gun (The Ridgecrest Daily Independent 9/7)
More ethical concerns about casino (The Ridecrest News Review 9/7)

An Opinion:
Editorial: City, people deserved better process on casino (The Ridgecrest Daily Independent 9/5)

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