Tribal faction requests court appointed receiver

In an attempt to ensure payments are made to tribal members, one tribal faction of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians has requested a federal hearing to determine whether or not those in control of casino operations are following up on Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill’s ruling that all tribal members enrolled in 2010 receive their monthly allotment.

During a court hearing last October O’Neill ordered that all tribal members from the 2010 enrollment list be paid monthly per capita payments. O’Neill cited 2010 as being the last uncontested tribal council election.

However, Morris Reid, representative for the Reid faction, contends that more than 70 tribal members who were officially on the tribes 2010 payroll were not given their monthly payments. Those payments can range anywhere from $300 and $400 a month.

Allegations point the finger directly at the “unification council,” led by Reggie Lewis who are in charge of paying the tribes monthly per capita payments.

According to an article written in Friday’s Fresno Bee, court documents submitted by the Reid faction contend that several deposits have been made to “controversial members” who have a direct relationship with members of the “unification council” yet payments to some 70-plus tribal members have not been received.

A month ago Reid’s faction requested that O’Neill hire a court appointed financial manager (receiver) who would oversee the tribe’s assets while the tribe works through what has become one of its most difficult and controversial issues since its opening in 2003.

“A lot of these families don’t even have electricity running and the tribe very rarely helps,” said an anonymous tribal member. “It seems to me that there are a lot of people they don’t help, but if your on the council you and your family will get a new trailer and home.”

A general tribal member meeting will be held Jan. 24, to discuss the future of tribal monthly per capita payments. However, several tribal members believe the tribal council does very little to help those in need and dis-enrolls anyone who speaks out against them. Members say they are intimidated and in some cases threatened if they are to speak out against anyone on the tribal council.

“They [council members] should not be allowed to come to the general meetings and we [tribal members] should be able to run our own meetings without them listening in. There are some things I would like to say but don’t want them to hear. Why can’t we all come together and keep our business going rather then end up fighting and causing controversy,” said the anonymous source.

Monthly tribal per capita payments are roughly $390 for personal expenditures, $250 more for seniors (utilities), and $300 for meals.

To this point O’Neill has tried to get all factions together to mediate and solve the issues internally, but despite these attempts at reconciling negotiations have failed and resulted in walk-outs.

Federal agencies including the BIA, NGIC and the U.S. Districts courts continue to show a reluctancey to get involved and make clear cut decisions which make for a stand-off between factions. Meanwhile, many of the tribe’s council members believe the courts lack jurisdiction to make these decisions.

Following the casino shutdown on Oct. 10, representatives have found themselves in court for a variety of reasons including kidnapping charges, injunctions and attempts to re-open the casino which is the largest employer in eastern Madera County.

The shutdown came after a hostile takeover in an attempt to regain access to tribal information and control over the casino’s day-to-day operations. Despite attempts to provide proof of the casino’s ability to assure customer safety the casino remains closed.

A court date has been set for Feb. 11, to determine whether or not the allegations are true and require actions on behalf of the federal courts.