A faction which has mainly taken a back seat throughout the Chukchansi disputes is stepping forward to offer a proposal in hopes of creating common ground between the feuding faction and ending the dispute which has caused stress and heartache to thousands of tribal members, casino workers, and community members.
Morris Reid and several others representing a third tribal faction has produced a proposed agreement in the hopes of resolving the ongoing tribal disputes within the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians and reopen the casino.
Reid says he, along with Dixie Jackson, Janice Devine, Dora Jones, Butch Fernandez, Mark Emmerick, Harold Hammond Sr., have developed a lengthy agreement that would adopt resolutions they feel would be necessary to return the tribe to a safe and manageable state.
“What we are trying to do is put together some kind of agreement to resolve this issue, bring the factions together and work to get a forensic audit and an election done,” Reid said. “Our conversation with federal officials indicate that an agreement between the various tribal leaders is a key ingredient to assuring the public safety and reopening the casino.”
Reid went on to say the agreement is a recommendation and that nothing was set in stone. The preliminary agreement remains open to ratification if agreed upon by all factions. Reid said the proposal was just a starting point to get all sides talking so that an agreed proposal could be produced to the liking of all factions.
“We would want to go over and see if there are any changes they want,” Reid said. “This proposal is just that, a proposal, there is nothing in stone. If they have suggestions we would be willing to discuss those suggestions and amend them together. We all have to agree and come together if we want to resolve this for the people.”
The proposed agreement would establish a joint “Caretaker Tribal Council,” a Caretaker CEDA Board - consisting of caretaker tribal council members, and a Caretaker Gaming Commission for the purpose of reopening and operating the casino and other limited purposes. Reid’s proposal suggests
The interim tribal council would be granted temporary authority with an expiration date set for 12 p.m. on the 18th day after a Clean Slate Election could be held to establish the new, and official, tribal council.
Reid’s proposed agreement is based on five principles which include a referendum and clean slate election, a caretaker government to act with limited authority, a forensic audit which would begin immediately, a retention election by which the tribal membership will determine whether any tribal council member found to have engaged in misconduct shall be allowed to remain on the tribal council, and enforceability through the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California which would potentially allow the federal government the authority to interpret and enforce laws according to tribal law and the constitution.
According to Reid proposal the “Caretaker Tribal Council” would consist of six members - two from the Reid Council, two from the Lewis Council and two from the McDonald Council.
The Referendum and Clean Slate Election would elect an all-new tribal council consisting of seven tribal members. Those members would be elected by tribal members, over the age of 18, who were members during the Dec. 1, 2010 election which has been acknowledged by the BIA as the last uncontested election.
Reid has gone as far as to reach out to the Carter Center to monitor the election and ensure its legitimacy. The Carter Center said it would consider this if all three faction could agree.
Reid has sent the proposal to both the McDonald and Lewis faction but has yet to receive a response.
Reid says despite the disagreements and split between the factions it is imperative that all groups get together and come to an agreement in order to reopen the casino and get people back to work.
“The only way to achieve a true resolution of the tribal dispute is for all of the so-called tribal leaders to agree to be bound by a fair and free election, in which all tribal member over the age of 18 are allowed to vote, and all tribal members who are over the age of 18 and live within 75 miles of the Rancheria are allowed to be candidates on the ballot,” Reid said. “ That’s why we put together the detailed proposal and I hope the other groups give it serious consideration.”
On Saturday, Nov. 8, the Chukchansi General Council, consisting of all tribal members, met at the Coarsegold Historic Village Park to discuss the present situation that has effected the tribe from the ground up. The meeting was limited to tribal members and the group discussed to possibility of gathering enough support for a quorum that would remove all present tribal councils consisting of the feuding factions.
Morris Reid, Reggie Lewis and other tribal council members were present during the meeting which discussed the future state of the tribe and its members.
Also in attendance at the meeting was a public accounting firm representative who offered financial and business advice to the tribal members who are being hindered by the current situation at the casino.
Meanwhile Chukchansi’s Tribal Police Chief, who was hired by the McDonald faction days before the Oct. 9 takeover, has accused Madera County Sheriff John Anderson of corruption and favoritism.
Oliveira, who is a wanted man for his actions during the Oct. 9 hostile takeover, claims he received approval from Madera County District Attorney Micheal Keitz days before entering the building.
Keitz filed charges against Oliveira and 14 other members of the police force and tribal council who entered the casino armed with tasers and weapons.
The accusations come following the sheriff’s decision to file reports with the district attorney’s office recommending the arrest of 15 individuals involved in the Oct. 9, takeover. District Attorney Michael Keitz responded by issuing arrest warrants for all 15 individuals charging them with seven counts of kidnapping, seven counts of false imprisonment, eight counts of assault with a firearm, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of battery inflicting serious bodily injury, and five counts of assault with a stun gun.
Oliveira, who remains at large, said he plans to turn himself in after gathering evidence and ensuring his family is taken care of while he is gone. Oliveira’s bail has been set at $800,000, a number expected to increase upon appearing before the court.
All this comes after 15-20 armed guards, including newly hired police chief John Oliviera, entered the casino on Oct. 9 in an attempt to secure financial papers from the rival Lewis faction who had established headquarters on the 11th floor of the casino back in August.
On Oct. 10 the casino was closed indefinitely by order of the National Indian Gaming Commission and the State Attorney General’s Office citing danger to patrons and safety concerns. A temporary restraining order and temporary injunction was issued by Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on Oct. 15 .