The proposed agreement between the City of Glendale and the Tohono O’odham should not be executed at this time. It is premature. There are outstanding legal actions and Congressional legislation yet to be decided. At the very least, the Glendale City Council should table this action to a time uncertain. There is absolutely no need for execution of this agreement immediately. In the last blog there were 3 major flaws with the agreement. Let’s take a look at them.

  1. The City of Glendale has no authority to review the design and the only entity that can inspect construction is the Fire Marshall. The Fire Marshall will not be able to tell if the plumbing, electrical, etc., construction is up to Code. The reservation is similar to a foreign nation planted inside Glendale. The proposed casino’s design cannot be approved by Glendale and even more importantly, the Federal Aviation Administration. The University of Phoenix Stadium’s height was subject to the FAA process and required approval from the agency. If the Tohono O’odham builds structures whose height interferes with operations of Luke Air Force Base or the Glendale Municipal Airport, Glendale and every agency is prohibited from taking action to stop it. There is precedent for such action. In Kenosha, Wisconsin their agreement stipulates, “That the Menominee Kenosha Gaming Authority will follow all applicable building and Federal Aviation Rules during the construction and operation of the project.”  Glendale should insist on a stipulation in the agreement requiring the Tohono O’odham’s development to be subject to Glendale’s design review process and FAA restrictions.
  2. The amount to be paid to Glendale annually is too low. Here are some examples of Tribal revenue sharing with other cities across the country. In NY Governor Cuomo’s press release of August, 2013 says, “Under the agreement, the local governments in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and the Salamanca area will receive their full 25% share of local impact payments, a total of $140 million. Today, the Governor traveled to Western New York to present checks to the local governments receiving funds under the agreement: Buffalo will receive $15.5 million, Niagara Falls will receive $89 million, and the Salamanca area will receive $34.5 million.” Because of a dispute between the State of New York and the Seneca Tribe payments were suspended for several years. The money cited in the press release were back payments made by the Seneca Tribe to those 3 cities. These cities receive anywhere from $2 to $8 million annually. The Seneca facility is about half the size of the proposed TO casino and therefore generates about half of the revenue expected at the proposed TO facility. Here is another example and it underscores another problem, “Officials in Duluth, Minnesota, are still trying to reinstate a gaming agreement with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. The tribe was sharing 19 percent of gross revenues from the Fond-du-Luth Casino. The tribe stopped making payments in 2009 after sending $75 million to the city.” If the Tohono O’odham stop making their miserly annual payments to Glendale, the city will see itself in a Duluth-type situation, waiting years to rectify the situation. Here is one last example and believe me, there are plenty more that could be cited. The Michigan Pokagon-New Buffalo Area Local Revenue Sharing Agreement says, “Section 18 of the Compact defines how tribal payments are made to local governments…These payments shall equal 2% of the annual net winnings at each casino derived from all Class III electronic games of chance, to the local units of government that are located in the immediate vicinity of each tribal casino site or that are otherwise directly affected by the operation of the casino.  It is the intent of the State and the Tribe that the payments to local units of government provided for in this section will be used primarily to provide financial resources to those political subdivisions of the State that actually experience increased operating costs associated with the operation of the Tribe’s Class III gaming facility.” For the most recent fiscal year, as of July 31, 2011, the total allocations of the tribal payments were shared by 8 cities and 4 educational districts in the amount of $5,818,019. The City Council should renegotiate the Tohono O’odham annual payment and require $15 million annually. That is equal to ONE DAY of estimated net profit or it should stipulate a percentage (no less than 5% annually) of net profit.   
  3.                                                                                                                                                                                                             3.  Lastly, Lastly, there is the issue of tribal sovereign immunity. The TO in the proposed agreement refers to a TO Resolution 14-317. I visited the Tohono O’odham’s web page on its Code and some very interesting information was available: “The Tohono O’odham Code is an unofficial compilation of the Nation’s laws of permanent and general interest, as well as Tohono O’odham Judicial Court rules, canons, and significant administrative orders. While the Code as a whole has not been formally adopted by the Legislative Council, an increasing number of the Nation’s laws are being adopted in a uniformly codified format and the individual laws appearing in the Code have been duly enacted as reflected in their legislative histories.” The web page defines sovereign immunity further: 

“Section 2101 Sovereign Immunity

    1. “The government of the Tohono O’odham Nation (“Nation”) and any person acting within the scope of his or her capacity as an officer, employee, or agent of the Nation are absolutely immune from suit, court process, or liability.
    2. “The Nation’s sovereign immunity extends to the Nation’s districts, enterprises, entities, and the officials, employees, and agents thereof.
    3. “Sovereign immunity cannot be waived except by a resolution or other official action of the Tohono O’odham Legislative Council expressly waiving, or authorizing a waiver of, sovereign immunity; provided that such a waiver shall be limited in accordance with its terms. A Legislative Council action that authorizes a Nation’s district, enterprise, or entity to sue or be sued does not waive sovereign immunity unless a waiver is expressly granted in a separate written contract or other duly approved writing.”

What is Resolution 14-317, where is it and what does it say? On Thursday, July 17, 2014 the TO called a Special Session and the last Resolution approved that day is Resolution 14-316, approving a Pisinemo District 2014 Operations Amendment . When was Resolution 4-317 passed and why is it not posted on the TO web site listing all actions passed by their Legislative Council? The City Council should require a stipulation requiring the TO to completely waive sovereign immunity with regard to any provision of this agreement. If the TO will not do so, then they have something to hide.

The proposed agreement makes me ill. Once again, Glendale is being taken to the cleaners and the majority of 4 councilmembers are too dumb or too ignorant to realize it. If they are truly serving the best interests of Glendale, as they claim to do, ad nausea, then they would take action to reject this TO self-serving agreement or at the very least, table it and craft an agreement that protects Glendale and works in its favor. Any one of these issues is enough grounds to reject or table the current proposed agreement. I would hope Councilmember Hugh might be concerned enough about these agreement provisions to support such action. So should Councilmember Sherwood, who fancies himself a negotiator and businessman extraordinaire.  

©Joyce Clark, 2014

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