A formal protest has been filed by attorney Robert Saunooke, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) regarding a casino purchase. The attorney is fighting against the decision of the tribe to purchase a casino owned by Caesars Entertainment at a price tag of $250 million. The tribe wants to purchase the Caesars Southern Indiana casino.
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed submitted Resolution No. 363 last year and it passed during a special session at the end of the year. This resolution allows the tribe to purchase the commercial casino, something that the tribe has wanted to do for a while now. Saunooke is not agreeable to the purchase and feels that it is irresponsible of the tribe and goes against the Charter.
In a statement, the attorney did not mince words when it came to the business deal. He called it horrible and said that the way it is set up looks like it is going against the Tribal Charter. The Charter is what the tribe must base operations on when it comes to controlling the personal and real property of the tribe.
The company is set up to be controlled by a board and the Tribal Council would not have control over this. They do not have the ability to fire anyone, direct any decision making, or do anything with it, which would be in violation of the Charter, based on Section 16.
The attorney also said that the tribe does not have the funds to pay for the casino. The money the tribe does have is to be used on infrastructure, capital improvements, and reducing debt. There is no pool of money in the general fund to be used to purchase casinos. Saunooke says the tribe will have to pull funds to make the purchase and that will be in violation of the ordinances.
The protest of the purchase was sent to Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha in late December. The plan of the attorney was to provide the protest early on so that it would be heard during the first council meeting. The group is supposed to meet on January 14.
Response by Council Attorney
This past weekend, Saunooke received a response from the councils’ attorney Carolyn West. He provided details of the response to the press. The response said that Saunooke had not filed a valid protest. He is not an interested party as he does not have a financial stake in the resolution in which the casino will be purchased.
Attorney West also said that Saunooke did not provide a direct impact statement, and this makes the protest deficient and it will not be put on the agenda of the tribal council. The attorney for the council goes on to reference areas of the Cherokee code that the protest has to clear four terms of qualification and it does not.
Saunooke does not agree with the attorney’s opinion and says that he is directly impacted by the deal and has a financial stake as part of being a member of the tribe. It will be interesting to see how this fight proceeds seeing that the tribe is not going to add the protest to its January agenda.