Apropos of our conference tomorrow.
The proposed $245 million casino project involves a complicated business and land deal between the city of Lansing, private developers and an indian tribe from the Upper Peninsula.
So complicated those involved were not able to reach an agreement on the various aspects of the project by an August deadline. So they gave themselves an extension until November 1st.
But with two weeks before the extended deadline there’s still no final agreement.
John Wernet is an attorney for the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. He says they are “on track to close on the purchase by November 1, though the amount of work….is a bit daunting.”
Before the Sault Tribe receives federal approval, the following questions need answers: Does MILCSA mandate that the secretary take into trust lands purchased with interest or other income from the Fund? If the land is purchased with principal from the Fund, will it be held in restricted fee by operation of law? Is the purchase of the Lansing property a consolidation or enhancement of landholdings, or other permissible use of the Fund? Finally, the Sault Tribe will have to demonstrate that they will exercise governmental authority over the Lansing casino site. Given these complex issues, the Sault Tribe’s proposal is poised to set significant precedent in the evolving field of off-reservation gaming.
Gerald Carr is a third-year student in the Indigenous Law Program at Michigan State University College of Law. He holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology, specializing in the languages and cultures of Native North America.
The article is here. There’s some good reporting in there (comments from Inter-Tribal Council, a quick survey of the issue of smoking in tribal casinos, a distinction about state law not applying on tribal land, and a discussion of the negotiations around the topic):
“If they did not allow smoking, they wouldn’t be doing any of the business they’re doing now,” said Bill Cross, a partner in the development group, Lansing Future LLC. “If you take that away, it would probably take out 30 percent of the revenue, maybe even higher. That means it would have been a deal-breaker for the city, too.
“Let’s say we’re the only Native American casino in the entire state that doesn’t have smoking: It just makes it an unfair playing field,” he said.
Speaking on the new television show “City Pulse Newsmakers” on Sunday, Mayor Virg Bernero said, “Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good,” acknowledging that while he would have liked to see a smoke-free casino, it was the tribe’s decision.
“In truth, I don’t think this is a perfect proposal. I think if we wait for perfect, we’ll wait for something that may never be,” he said. “There’s lots of things to like about this proposal.”
Bernero said he “didn’t notice a heavy smell” when visiting other casinos where smoking is permitted. “Would I prefer that there was no smoking anywhere indoors? Yeah, I would. But that’s not law in Michigan. To single out Lansing would have put us at a disadvantage.” Bernero added “that’s our view” when asked if requiring the casino to be entirely smoke-free would have been a “deal-killer.”
Bernero Talks To Sault Tribe About Casino
The city of Lansing and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians are in negotiations for a potential downtown casino, two sources with knowledge of the talks told MIRS today.
Lansing Mayor Virg BERNERO had hoped to make an official announcement of a deal sometime this week, but that has been pushed forward two to four weeks. If one were built, organized labor would push to be involved in the construction or renovation of a facility.
“There’s been a lot of discussion,” said UAW Local 602 President Art LUNA, who has been party to some of the discussions. “It’s an opportunity to bring jobs to Lansing.”
Attorney Richard McLELLAN, who consulted with the Bernero administration on the feasibility of a casino in Lansing, said his conclusion is that no more casinos can be built in Michigan, which is not an uncommon opinion, he said. However, Bernero is working with other legal counsel to find another legal avenue.
“If someone can figure out how to do it, more power to them,” McLellan said. “Maybe somebody has a way to do it. If they do, it will be a new theory. It will have to be.”
Sault Tribe Chairman Joe Eitrem would neither confirm nor deny its interest in “any project that may or may not be under consideration at this time.
“The Sault Tribe is regularly presented with economic development and business opportunities that we evaluate relative to our long-term tribal goals and objectives,” Eitrem said. “We will explore any and all business and development opportunities that offer the potential to help us achieve our goals of economic self-sufficiency and improving programs and services for our members.
“If and when we are prepared to announce our firm interest in any such a project, we will inform our members, the news media, and other audiences.”
A phone call to a Bernero spokesman was not returned by MIRS‘ deadline.
From the Sault Tribe website (no permalink, unfortunately). Thanks, A.K.:
Sault Tribe selects John Wernet as New General Counsel
Written by Michelle Bouschor
Wednesday, 01 June 2011
John Wernet, former deputy legal counsel to Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm and a recognized expert in Native American law, will be the new general counsel to the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
Wernet will become the lead attorney for the Sault Tribe, the largest federally recognized Indian tribe east of the Mississippi with nearly 39,000 members, and its talented team of lawyers. He brings to the position many years of experience in Native American legal issues nationally and in Michigan.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve the members and leadership of the Sault Tribe,” said Wernet, who officially starts the job on June 13. “The Sault Tribe is the state’s largest sovereign Native community and is vitally important as a job provider. I am proud to be a member of their team.”
Wernet earned his B.A. from the University of Michigan’s Residential College in 1972 and his J.D. from Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C. in 1975. From 1975 through 1979 he was on the faculty of Antioch School of Law where he directed the law school’s paralegal programs including the National Indian Paralegal Training Program.
Wernet returned to Michigan in 1979 to become an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Michigan and served as counsel to the Michigan Commission on Indian Affairs from 1980 through 1988, as First Assistant in the Indian Law Unit from 1992-1995, and as Assistant in Charge of the Native American Affairs Division from 1998 through 2003. In 2003, he became Deputy Legal Counsel to Michigan Gov. Granholm and served as the governor’s advisor on tribal-state affairs.
“John Wernet is a superior attorney and a high quality person with distinguished credentials and a stellar reputation, and we are thrilled to have him as our new general counsel,” said Lana Causley, vice chairwoman of the Sault Tribe Board of Directors.
Well, they sent it to me, so I’ll post it:
I write this memo to our tribal and casino team members to inform you that after more than two years in Chapter 11 reorganization, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) transferred the license of Greektown Casino from the Tribe to a group of private hedge funds and investors from other states. This happened yesterday at a special meeting of the MGCB in Detroit. We anticipate that next week, ownership of the casino will be legally transferred to the group.
The transfer occurred after the MGCB conducted a relatively abbreviated background check of the new owners. We strongly objected to this decision. Concerns were also raised by state Representative Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard, Republican candidate for governor Mike Bouchard (who wrote the state law that governs the three Detroit casinos when he was in the state Senate), state Senate Majority Leader Michael Bishop, R-Troy, and Congressman Bart Stupak, D-Menominee. Unfortunately, the MGCB ignored all the concerns and abandoned its own rules and the process it has used over the years to license casino owners.
The board and I spent many days, weeks, and months reviewing plans and proposals that would allow us to keep a stake in Greektown. Though some might disagree, I truly believe we did all we could to save our interest in this investment. Now that this decision has been made, it is time for the Tribe to examine other opportunities we have to grow our revenue stream securing membership services for years to come.
MAYETTA, Kan. – Appearances are everything in small communities. This is especially true in Indian country, where close family, social and work relationships may appear to compromise the integrity of tribal judicial systems.
Elizabeth A. Kronk, assistant professor of law at theUniversity of Montana School of Law, urges tribes to adopt a code of ethics for their tribal justices and elected officers, not only as an exercise in sovereignty, but also to avoid even the perception of impropriety.
“Our communities are small, and we know everybody,” said Kronk, who spoke on ethical considerations for tribal courts, practice and governance at the 10th Annual Native Nations Law Symposium, Feb. 12, at Prairie Band Casino & Resort on the Potawatomi reservation.
Kronk presented excerpts from the National Tribal Judicial Center’s Sample Code of Judicial Conduct and theABA’s 2007 Model Code of Judicial Conduct to discuss the appearance of impropriety, the definition of who a judge is, disqualification, extrajudicial activities, ex parte communication, and the integrity and independence of the tribal judiciary.