Reorganized Greektown Casino Investors Respond to Stupak

From the Freep via Pechanga:

WASHINGTON – A week after U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak asked the federal Interior and Justice departments to put the brakes on the bankruptcy reorganization of Greektown Casino, a lawyer for the investors set to take control from the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said Stupak’s claims on behalf of the tribe should not be allowed to slow the process.

Allan Brilliant, a New York lawyer representing a group of private equity and hedge funds which will take ownership of the Detroit casino, said in his letter Tuesday that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar should “disregard” Stupak’s request to look into the reorganization, saying the tribe’s “last-minute, baseless attempt to delay such exit (from bankruptcy) is detrimental to all parties that benefit from the revenues generated by the facility.”

Last week, Stupak – a Democrat from Menominee on the Upper Peninsula, where the Sault tribe is based – said Holder and Salazar should look into whether land held in trust by the federal government on behalf of a tribe can be handed over to investors without an act of Congress.

He said some of the land on Beaubien Street in Detroit where Greektown Casino is located was given to the federal government on the tribe’s behalf by private investors.

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Sault Tribe Enlisted Stupak to Pressure Justice and Interior on Greektown Parcel

From the Soo Evening News:

The Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians has gained a powerful ally in its bid to retain Greektown Casino as Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) has requested the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the Michigan Gaming Control Board to postpone Chapter 11 reorganization.

In a three-page letter [20100609_GreektownCasino], Stupak urges the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate if it is legally possible for the Sault Tribe to lose its real estate interest in Greektown Casino. Essentially, Stupak argued, that the 0.76 acre parcel located at 1010 Beaubien Street in the City of Detroit has been placed in federal trust and cannot be conveyed to another party without Congressional authorization.

“I seriously question the propriety and legality of a process in which the property conveyed to the United States in trust on behalf of the Tribe can be conveyed without authority from Congress and without full Tribal consent,” wrote Stupak, indicating it was his opinion that the parcel is owned by the federal government for the benefit and use of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Stupak went on to write “that any further proceedings related to the reorganization of the Greektown Casino by the Michigan Gaming Control Board or other agencies be postponed” until a determination is made by federal authorities.
Stupak expressed his concerns regarding this matter following a meeting with Director D.J. Hoffman of the Sault Tribe Board of Directors last week.

“On June 4, 2010 myself, Director (Keith) Massaway and Chairman (Darwin “Joe”) McCoy met with Congressman Stupak to discuss Tribal issues, including Greektown,” said Hoffman. “I am extremely grateful that Congressman Stupak recognized the serious nature of this situation and immediately took action to call this issue into question.”
Chairman McCoy expressed similar sentiments.

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Stupak Throws Indian Law Monkey Wrench Into Greektown Bankruptcy

Potentially, though perhaps not likely, this is a huge issue. Assuming that the Greektown parcel is owned by the Secretary of Interior on behalf of the Sault Tribe, then an Act of Congress may be required. And if one is not forthcoming, there may be some very interesting litigation involving the interaction of federal bankrupcty laws and maybe the Quiet Title Act. If the land is not in trust, then we may still have a Non-Intercourse Act problem, but likely not. Apparently, according to the letter, the land is in trust.

Update: Via Indianz, here is Stupak’s letter.

From the Freep, via Pechanga:

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep Bart Stupak wants to halt the bankruptcy reorganization of Greektown Casino at least until the federal government determines whether an act of Congress is needed to transfer the land the Detroit gaming hall sits on.

Earlier this year, a federal bankruptcy judge approved a reorganization plan allowing Greektown Casino’s bondholders — including several private equity and hedge funds — to take ownership. The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, based on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, has a majority ownership stake in the casino.

The process needs the approval of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, with a court deadline of June 30 approaching.

But Stupak, D-Menominee, has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to delay any change in ownership while they investigate whether land held by the federal government on behalf of the tribe — about three-fourths of an acre on Beaubien Street in Detroit — can be transferred without an act of Congress.

“The tribe stands to lose its entire investment in the business, including a portion of the real property underlying the casino,” Stupak said in the letter written Wednesday.

According to Stupak, 400 Monroe Associates — controlled by Greektown businessman Ted Gatzaros — deeded the land to the U.S. Department of Interior on behalf of the tribe in 1992.

Tribally owned lands cannot be sold without the consent of the federal government, and the Interior Department is not allowed to approve the sale of such land without direct congressional authorization, Stupak said.

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Interlochen Public Radio on the Great Lakes Compact

From IPR:

Listen Now

INTERLOCHEN PUBLIC RADIO (2008-11-19) Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak will try again to address what he calls a serious flaw in the Great Lakes Compact. That’s the new law that bans diversions of water out of the basin. State legislatures and the Congress approved it overwhelmingly. But critics say the Compact leaves a door open for international companies to put unlimited quantities of water in containers and sell it. IPR’s Bob Allen reports.

Op-Ed Favoring Sault Tribe and Bay Mills Land Claims Settlement Acts

From the Port Huron Time Herald:

Democratic process is lost in decisions made at national level

Those required “Problems of Democracy” classes you took in high school are long on theory, but very short on reality.You saw it again a week ago. After several previous attempts, the Bay Mills Indian Community sought approval of a Michigan land settlement plan. The tribe would relinquish any claims to contested land at Charlotte Beach in exchange for the right to have property put into trust in the city of Port Huron.

HR 2176, the bill to approve the land-claim settlement between the state of Michigan and Bay Mills, was offered by U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, whose district includes the contested land. It was co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, whose district includes the property to be put in trust as part of the settlement. The arrangement has the support of former Michigan Gov. John Engler and Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Who was responsible for pressuring House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., into pulling the bill and thereby preventing it from being voted out of committee – let alone an up-or-down vote by the House and Senate? Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. The Senate majority leader pressured House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to pull the plug.What has our government become when a senator 2,000 miles away can reach down into the belly of a House subcommittee and kill a bill that would provide staggering benefits for Port Huron? After six years, Bay Mills has yet to be permitted a vote -even by a subcommittee of either branch of Congress. That’s absolutely astonishing to any American who still believes in the precepts of American democracy – “one man, one vote.”

In small-town America, the democratic system actually works pretty smoothly. If you’re a county commissioner, school board trustee or village or city council member, all you have to do is make a motion, get just one other person to second it, and you get your day in court – an up-or-down vote.

In Congress, however, the system has been corrupted beyond belief. It’s a system where power is granted to members not based on “one man, one vote,” but on an anti-democratic arrangement where certain members can block a bill, giving them power way beyond their single vote.

What has the corruption of the democratic process in Congress cost Port Huron? As a community facing an economic depression, one of the highest unemployment rates in America and a federally-funded Blue Water Bridge Plaza project that is on the brink of annihilating Port Huron, Congress is six years into blocking a $500 million casino development that would provide 3,000 to 6,000 union jobs with the spin-off developments.

Who’s benefiting from this obvious attempt to block competition for Detroit’s good old boys? Along with Reid’s Nevada crowd (including Detroit’s MGM Grand Casino, with its record $55 million earnings in October), is the newly-crowned “Most Dangerous City in the Nation” – Detroit.

Think the battle for the Port Huron casino is over? I think not!

Cliff Schrader is a radio columnist on WGRT-FM 102.3. His Friday columns are part of a cooperative agreement between the radio station and the Times Herald. His opinions are his own and not those of the Times Herald or WGRT.