It has been 17 years and 271 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

NOTE: You may have noted that I haven’t posted blogs lately. More trips to California on personal business interfered. In addition, on one of my usual forays into the koi pond to trim pond plants I fell not once, but twice. It was the second fall that put me out of commission for I broke my fall into the water with a hand. Luckily, due to the strong bones I inherited, I didn’t break anything but I did do damage to my wrist and arm. It was just enough damage to incapacitate me for a few more days…sigh. My invincibility gene was malfunctioning that day.

Recently Judge Campbell, tasked with making local judicial decisions on all things Tohono O’odham casino related, issued another decision. The Tohono O’odham (TO) filed a motion to compel the state to issue it a Class III gaming license. Currently the TO have the right to install Class II (bingo type) gaming equipment but to use Class III equipment it needs state approval. It is generally believed that Class II gaming is not as lucrative as Class III.

Judge Campbell noted the court “has never held, as the (tribe) argues, that the State’s allegations of fraud… lack merit.” This may be the crux of the entire legal situation. Ned Norris, Jr., previous Chairman of the Tohono O’odham, has never once denied or refuted the charges of deception leveled against he and his Tribe allegedly committed against the State of Arizona, the Governor and the voters. Fraud and misrepresentation appeared to be woven into every decision made by the Tohono O’odham. They bought land in Glendale on a county island and kept it secret for 7 years. They funded and actively participated in the campaign to convince Arizona voters to approve the State Compact. They betrayed their sister tribes and the people of the state of Arizona. They had a plan which they shared with no one while advocating for the state gaming compact.

Many who oppose the casino believe as Judge Campbell noted that there is merit to the state’s allegations of fraud. During the campaign to convince voters to approve the State Gaming Compact in 2002:

  • Not once did the TO reveal that they had been secretly land shopping for a new casino site in Maricopa County and even considered a land purchase in Buckeye.
  • Not once did the TO reveal that they had secretly acquired land in Glendale for a casino using a shell company.
  • Not once did the TO reveal that they secretly held land for a new casino for 7 years.
  • Not once did the TO reveal that they planned to violate the promise to voters to limit the number of casinos in Maricopa County.
  • Not once did the TO reveal to its sister tribes its plans for a new casino in Maricopa County.

In 2009 the Tohono O’odham publicly announced its plans and shock waves rippled throughout the state. Their action, if ultimately successful, will blow the state gaming compact apart as  new precedent is set. If and when the compact is finally trampled on by the TO, the specter of new casinos (Indian and non-Indian) on other county islands looms large. Is it any wonder that other Valley Metro cities are concerned and have voiced their disapproval of the TO’s actions? They don’t want a casino in their neighborhoods any more than the people of west Glendale want a casino in their neighborhood.

Judge Campbell has demonstrated that the Tohono O’odham can’t win ‘em all. Allegations of fraud and misrepresentation may be the undoing of the TO and may turn out to be the most important point of law still untested.

© Joyce Clark, 2015


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