Chukchansi on-site council involved in another dispute

The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians on-site tribal council was involved in a inner-tribal dispute Thursday night which continued into Friday evening.

Around 10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, two members of the on-site tribal council, with the help of several family members and the gaming commission, prevented the remaining five members of the tribal council from gaining access to the tribal council facilities and casino.

According to sources, on-site council members Amanda Ramirez and Charles Sargosa filed ethics charges against five members of the current on-site tribal council suspending Tex McDonald, Donna Featherstone, Vernon King, Monica Davis and Linda Appling.

However, according Vice Chairwomen of the Picayune Chukchansi Tribal Council Davis, none of the five tribal members were notified of any suspensions or actions that required suspension.

Davis said all seven members were present at tribal council meeting on Thursday, Aug. 7, that lasted until 5 p.m.. According to Davis nothing was mentioned, during the meeting, discussing the current situation or filing of ethics charges against any members. It was not until later that evening tribal members were made aware that they were no longer allowed access to the tribal office on Picayune Road (Road 417) or the casino, sighting an ethics based suspension.

"The gaming commission was involved in locking the tribal council out. The tribal gaming commission has no authority over the council so the fact that they helped lock us out was appalling to us," Davis said.

On Friday evening Davis says the five members locked out of the facilities had received no documentation of any suspension or filing of ethics charges.

Until Sunday the five members, including Davis, were located at the Smoke Shop off Highway 41, on tribal ground, where they continued to resolve the situation. Davis says all five members remained there until the issue was resolved.

As of Sunday Davis and the other four members were granted access to the tribal offices and said everything was back to business as usual. A meeting was conducted Tuesday to assure no documents or assets were taken during the dispute.

"They are back on the premises and back to business as usual. Everyone is glad that they were able to negotiate a solution to this with anymore conflict than we already saw, peacefully," Leibowitz said.

However, neither Ramirez nor Sargosa were involved in the meeting and both were unable to be reached for comment.

According to sources the incident potentially stemmed from the re-enrollment of several tribal members who previously sided with the Lewis faction which continues to be at odds with the on-site council led by McDonald.

Although unable to confirm the number of people, Leibowitz acknowledged that several previously disenrolled members were potentially reenrolled after negotiating with the McDonald faction.

"The current council is taking a much more forgiving attitude for people that were previously working with the Lewis group. this current council is trying to work with compassion."