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Wilton Rancheria joins lawsuit as foes challenge casino decision

Filed Under: California | Casino Stalker | Land Acquisitions | Litigation
More on: bia, california, doi, donald trump, land-into-trust, larry roberts, mike black, wilton

The Wilton Rancheria plans to build a $400 million casino on 36 acres in Elk Grove, California. Photo: Wilton Rancheria

The Wilton Rancheria has been granted a right to enter a lawsuit filed by casino opponents in California.

The tribe's motion to intervene was approved on February 24, according to an order filed in federal court. The tribe will now be able to respond to the complaint submitted by Stand Up For California and three non-Indian opponents.

But the plaintiffs on that same day asked for their case to be held in "abeyance" because they are bringing a separate challenge before the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, an administrative review board based within the Interior Department. They say the Bureau of Indian Affairs made a procedural mistake in placing the tribe's 36-acre casino site in trust.

The BIA's record of decision was signed by Larry Roberts, who at the time was the "Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs" for the Obama administration. The plaintiffs, however, claim Roberts lacked the authority to place the land in trust because that power is held by the "Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs."

"Here, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary issued what is plainly and by regulation a non-final trust decision. Yet Defendants publicly represented that the decision is final for the [Interior] Department," the filing reads. "Defendants have not complied with notice requirements, for either final or non-final agency decisions."

Roberts at one point was serving as the "Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs" after Kevin Washburn left the Obama administration in December 2015. But he went back to being the "Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs" because he was on longer able to hold the "acting" title due to restrictions in federal law.

Despite the change in leadership at the BIA, the Trump administration has confirmed that the tribe's land is indeed in trust. A February 10 letter to the casino opponents stating that it was "immediately" put in trust was signed by Mike Black, who holds the title of "Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs" during the transition.

Read More on the Story:
Appeal filed against federal decision on proposed casino site (The Elk Grove Citizen 3/1)

Federal Register Notices:
Final Environmental Impact Statement and a Revised Draft Conformity Determination for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (December 14, 2016)
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (December 29, 2015)
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (December 4, 2013)

Related Stories:
Bureau of Indian Affairs confirms Wilton Rancheria casino in trust (2/21)
Raymond Hitchcock: The facts about Wilton Rancheria's casino plan (2/20)
Wilton Rancheria seeks to join lawsuit as gaming site is put in trust (2/20)
Wilton Rancheria sees setback on land agreement for casino project (2/9)
Wilton Rancheria gaming proposal up for discussion at city meeting (2/7)
Wilton Rancheria casino land in limbo amid change in administration (2/2)
Wilton Rancheria celebrates approval of gaming land application (1/26)
Wilton Rancheria slams non-Indian interests for fighting casino (01/10)

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