Delvin Cree: Turtle Mountain Band on the hook for a big loan

Tribal corruption is something that happens often in Indian Country. I'm not saying it's an on-going thing, but it does happen and some of us actually don't know it exists because it's done in a normal fashion on reservations.

I'm often a critic of tribal corruption because in a sense our children will learn from it and the practice will continue. This is not what we want for our children's future.

I moved back home to my reservation almost eight years ago and have been a critic of my tribe's government through several administrations. If it weren't for critics, the community will continue to see "only" the side of our leader's propaganda, which is put into our community papers and elsewhere.

My tribe, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, is under much scrutiny right due to a few decisions made by a quorum of leaders who yet to see the light of what they are actually doing to the tribe's future.

Right now, our tribal court has put in place an injunction to stop the tribe from opening a casino in North Dakota's rich oil patch. The new endeavor is called "The Painted Pony." This casino development project is located in Trenton.

Acting in their capacity as tribal leaders, Mike Malaterre, Lorne Jay, Cindy Malaterre and Elmer Davis Jr. filed the injunction in our tribal court dated May 10, 2012. The defendant/respondents is/are AGAMENV, LLC, aka, Dakota Gaming, LLC, Associated Investors, Ray Brown, Steven Haynes.

It's a good decision to have a casino in oil country. But these concerned tribal leaders say they need to discuss the project more before final arrangements are put in place.

One issue that is mind boggling to me -- and I'm sure the council people taking legal action agree -- is that a questionable tribal resolution is being used to move this project forward during the financial and development stages.

Here's what the TMBC586-11-11 (revised) resolution reads, "WHEREAS, the Tribe is initiating a business venture for providing a casino in the Trenton area; and WHEREAS, the Tribe is entering into a development agreement to proceed with the business venture; now THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Tribe is entering in a development agreement with AGAMENV to proceed with plans for the casino in the Trenton area."

The resolution was voted on and supported November 10, 2011. The Chairman Merle St Claire signed off on the resolution on December 21, 2011. Supporting the resolution were, Larry DeCoteau, Jeff "BJ" Delorme, Curtis Poitra (Vice-Chairman) Zelma Peltier (Secretary/Treasure) and Lorne Jay. The leaders who were absent are Cindy Malaterre, Elmer Davis Jr. and Mike Malaterre.

In discussions later Jay said he didn't vote in favor of the resolution and Cindy Malaterre stated she and Mike Malaterre showed up in the meeting after the vote was taken.

Mr. Jay stated this same resolution was used when a $1, 076,499.63 loan was borrowed for the casino. The money came from Dakota Gaming, LLC.

According to Ms. Malaterre, the tribal council voted on several resolutions before they made a previous $30 million dollar loan on a casino expansion/development project currently being constructed on the reservation.

In this instance she said, additional resolutions were never voted on and approved by a quorum of supporting tribal officials. "We didn't vote on approving a million dollar loan for the Trenton Casino ... and the resolution the chairman and his quorum are using doesn't specify making a loan for a million dollars," she said.

Councilman Lorne Jay, who provided the loan documents, also states there had to be an injunction in place because question's that have to be answered. Like Malaterre, Jay says the chairman and other council members, along with the tribe's legal consultant, have not been disclosing pertinent information to them. In a previous statement made public he says procedures and guidelines have to be followed in accordance to the National Indian Gaming Commission. From his standpoint, the process hasn't been followed.

Also of concern is the loan agreement for the casino. According to the court complaint, "Should the Painted Pony be allowed to open one day, the remaining term on the 83 month contract would be 2525 days @ 125/day (as listed in the proposal provided to the Tribe at the September 10, 2011 meeting) for 142 machines (according to machines list of 5/1/12). Total due would be $44,818,750.00."

According to Malaterre, "If there is any default in this agreement signed by our chairman, our tribe could be owing the investor Steven Haynes a lot of money -- $44 million dollars and then some."

Jay agreed with Malaterre and had this to say: "The course of action taken by me and other concerned tribal leaders had to be done."

According to leaders who have provided documents, Steven Haynes is also an investor in the tribe's payday loan project. The project has faced criticism because of the industry's high interest short term loans. The Federal Trade Commission is considering shutting down this lending industry.

A court hearing on the casino is to take place on June 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm at the Turtle Mountain Tribal Courthouse. It will be interesting to learn if resolution TMBC586-11-11 was an official document to be used to take out the $1,076,499.63 loan for The Painted Pony Casino.

Delvin Cree is a columnist/writer for The Tribal Independent, an alternative on-line news source for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Cree is also a contributor to the tribe's newspaper The Turtle Mountain Times and Indianz.com, a national news source for American Indians.

More from Delvin Cree:
Delvin Cree: Powwows an important part of tribal culture (4/20)
Delvin Cree: Explore energy development in Indian Country (03/23)
Delvin Cree: Treaties and the debate over 'Fighting Sioux' (2/24)
Delvin Cree: Predatory lending a cash cow in Indian Country (2/17)
Delvin Cree: Favoritism in Turtle Mountain tribal employment (2/3)

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