NIGC to Norton: We won't shut down
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The following is the text of a letter National Indian Gaming Commmission Chairman Montie R. Deer sent to Secretary of Interior Gale A. Norton. January 26, 2002.


January 26, 2002

The Honorable Gale A. Norton
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Norton:

Thank you for your letter of January 25, 2002. After carefully considering your position, I have directed my general counsel to seek guidance from the Special Master to determine whether the National Indian Gaming Commission is subject to the court's order. If the Special Master determines the Commission is subject to that Order, this agency will immediately disable its Internet service until such time as it is appropriate to resume such service. Because of the care the Special Master has taken to insure the protection of Indian trust funds information, I have every reason to believe that the Special Master will respond promptly and fairly.

As you are aware , the Commission has been entrusted by Congress to ensure the integrity of Indian gaming. Several important Commission functions, such as coordinating criminal background checks of potential casino employees by Indian tribes and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, can be performed efficiently only through usage of the Internet. Because of the number of people employed in the Indian gaming industry, the background review function alone involves hundreds of persons and potential criminal records each week. A disruption in our Internet service could cause a serious backlog. Many of the applicants for jobs in the Indian gaming industry are low wage, Native American workers seeking to find gainful employment on their reservations. Accordingly, disconnecting from the Internet would not only frustrate our ability to ensure that Indian gaming is free of the influence of organized crime and other unsuitable influences, it could also have an unfortunate economic effect on poor Native Americans seeking work on their reservations.

Interior's manner of implementation of the courts order has already been criticized as having had an unfortunate impact on poor Native Americans, including plaintiffs in this action, who rely on the income from their trust assets to meet daily needs. In light of such criticism, which we have no way to evaluate ourselves, we respectfully prefer to seek guidance from the court to determine whether Interior's interpretation of the court's order matches the court's and the parties intentions. Whatever your belief as to our party status, you must realize that we have not been acting as a party in this action for the past five years and have not been officially informed of any developments in this proceeding until this week.

If the Special Master indicates that the order was intended to apply to the Commission, we will take immediate action to conform to the requirements of the order. Until then, we believe that it would be inconsistent with our charge under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to assent to an interpretation with which we do not agree. Until we hear from the Special Master, we will endeavor to use all the resources available to us to meet our responsibilities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or General Counsel Kevin Washburn.

Very truly yours,

Montie R. Deer

Cc: Sandra Spooner, United States Department of Justice
Philip Hogen, United Stated [sic] Department of the Interior

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Gaming commission ignoring Norton order (1/28)