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February 19, 2010

Scotts Valley Pomos to rally for support
By Katy Sweeny -- Staff reporter Updated: 02/17/2010 07:40:41 PM PST
LAKEPORT -- Members of the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians will rally for support and control of their council Friday in Lakeport.

Tribal member Les Miller said they want to bring jobs to Lake County by possibly buying Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa and adding a casino, rather than building a casino in Richmond as the council members have supported for years.

"This is not an Indian tribe issue," Miller said. "It's a community issue."

About 30 tribal members plan to rally at noon in front of the museum on Main Street between Second and Third streets in Lakeport, Miller said. Members want to gain support and signatures for a letter they will send to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer requesting help. Miller said he was threatened with his life and with dis-enrollment from the tribe for speaking out against the Richmond casino.

"We don't care about threats anymore," Miller said. "We want our casino where it belongs, in Lake County, so we can help our community, schools and pools."

Miller said he and other tribal members are in the process of recalling the tribal council.

"The community is hurt. Jobs are at stake here. We want to keep jobs in Lake County," Miller said. "We have 12,000 years of history here. We have none in Richmond."

Contact Katy Sweeny at kdsweeny@gmail.com or call her directly at 263-5636, ext. 37.

Scotts Valley tribmembers plan Friday rally in Lakeport

Written by Elizabeth Larson Friday, 19 February 2010 Lake County News
LAKEPORT – About 30 members of the Scotts Valley Pomo plan to hold an event in downtown Lakeport on Friday in an effort to rally support for a proposal to bring a planned casino for the tribe to Lake County.

Les Miller, a tribal member and former Scotts Valley chairman, said the group will gather at the Courthouse Museum on Main Street from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Their goal is to gather backing for a proposal to purchase Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa – which closed last November – and open a casino there, said Miller.

The resort was reported to be under a sales contract late last year, but resort officials have not returned repeated calls seeking an update on the situation.

For several years the Scotts Valley tribe – which has no trust land – has been working to get approval for its Sugar Bowl Casino plan in north Richmond, where tribal officials say they have ancestral ties.

The plan calls for a 225,000-square-foot facility with 2,000 gaming machines and 50 gaming tables, which the tribe's Web site said will create thousands of jobs.

But some tribal members, like Miller, would rather see the casino here, in the tribe's home area.

They're also hoping to see jobs created in Lake County, where Miller said the community is hurting. He said so far they're receiving broad-based support from community and business leaders who have heard about their plans.

“This is not just a tribal issue anymore, it's a community issue,” Miller said.

However, the current tribal government isn't supporting the plan.

“We're not going to be able to respond immediately,” said Bennett Wright, tribal administrator for the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, adding that the tribal government would issue a full response next week.

Wright said that certain members of the tribe like Miller have opposed the tribal government before, and that there is nothing factual about their statements.

In turn, Miller said he and other tribal members who have disagreed with the tribal leadership have been intimidated and threatened with disenrollment, and that internal disagreements have deepened over the last 10 years, as the casino plans have been under way.

Miller and his family also have attempted in recent years to vote out Tribal Chair Don Arnold from office and have disputed the results of recent elections.

At the rally Miller said community members will be able to sign a letter asking US Sen. Dianne Feinstein to take action to limit off-reservation casinos. Miller said it would “open up the floodgates” if Scotts Valley's goal for a Richmond casino were allowed to move forward.

However, those plans appear to have hit some significant obstacles.

Last September, the National Indian Gaming Commission issued a decision disapproving a gaming management contract between the tribe and Richmond Gaming Ltd. – which is the group of investors backing the project and the entity which also owns the land for the proposed casino facility.

The reasons for the decision included the commission's finding that Richmond Gaming provided false information about the partners and their financial interests.

“The actions of Richmond are quite serious,” stated then-National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Philip N. Hogen in a September letter, a copy of which was obtained by Lake County News.

Hogen explained that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act – or IGRA – “specifically identifies protecting tribes from organized crime and corrupting influences and ensuring that tribes are the primary beneficiary of the gaming as the objectives of IGRA.”

Hogen also faulted Richmond for not answering his questions. He had requested a list of all persons and entities with a financial interest in, or management responsibility for, the contract, which Richmond failed to provide. Many of those names are redacted in the letter available through public records sources.

Miller alleged that the tribal council “were just basically selling the farm to these investors,” and that the plan unraveled.

Richmond Gaming later appealed, and in December the National Indian Gaming Commission and Richmond Gaming – represented by Florida investor Alan H. Ginsburg, a real estate mogul who a San Francisco Weekly article from 2004 identified as also being involved in the Lower Lake Rancheria-Koi Nation's plans for a Bay Area casino – signed a settlement agreement.

In that agreement, Richmond Gaming agreed that it wasn't in compliance with National Indian Gaming Commission regulations regarding submission of management agreements, and as part of the settlement Richmond Gaming withdrew its appeal and the commission withdrew its letter disapproving the management agreement.

Richmond must form a new entity to take over its responsibilities. That company must then resubmit the previous management agreement or submit a new one by the end of May.

If Richmond fails to follow the terms of the settlement, Scotts Valley will have the chance to purchase from the company the casino land at the appraised value, the agreement states. If the company fails to sell the land in that circumstance, Hogen's previous letter voiding the contract will become the agency's final action.

Miller said members of the tribe who want a casino in Lake County know that they're in for a battle.

He said Lake County is where he was raised, and that's where the tribe's efforts should be focused.

“I'm not going to sell my history,” Miller said