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Casino Licence Suspension Triggers Protest

24 July 2006

MORTON, Minnesota – (PRESS RELEASE) -- Concerned members of the Lower Sioux Community will hold a news conference at noon Monday, July 24, at the reservation's community center in Morton in conjunction with a protest designed to force the resignations of Tribal Chairman Sheldon Wolfchild, Vice Chairman Scott Adolphson and Secretary Shannon Blue. The protest organizers are among more than 180 tribal members, a majority of eligible tribal voters, who have signed a petition demanding that the three resign because they have committed violations of tribal and federal law.

The latest demand for resignations was triggered last week when Wolfchild suspended the gaming licenses of four key employees of the tribe's Jackpot Junction Casino. The casino's general manager, assistant manager, controller and head of security were effectively fired, since under federal and tribal law, they cannot work at the casino without valid licenses.

In a news release issued Saturday, tribal attorney Steven Sandven said the employees were fired because they refused to provide financial information to the Tribal Gaming Commission. Tribal treasurer Dennis Prescott said Sunday that Sandven's claim was "an absolute falsification of the facts."

According to Prescott, the employees had provided all the financial information requested. In fact, Prescott said, it is Tribal Secretary Shannon Blue that has refused to provide financial information, even denying Prescott access to the financial records for which he is responsible under tribal law. Prescott said the employees were fired for political reasons.

Under normal procedures, casino managers provide financial reports to the Tribal Council showing current gaming proceeds, and then Council members allocate those proceeds to tribal members in accordance with their federally approved revenue allocation plan. Under federal law, only Tribal Council members may make decisions affecting revenue allocation and per capita payments.

Whittaker said he and two of the three other terminated employees received a "subpoena" last Tuesday from the Tribal Gaming Commission demanding that they appear at a hearing on charges that they had failed to comply with the tribe's revenue allocation plan. Since the allocation plan is under the exclusive control of the Tribal Council, none of the employees had ever had any authority or control over it.

The employees became concerned about the true purpose of the hearing, and asked permission to bring along Prescott, and another Council member, and their own legal counsel. The Commission denied the request, so the employees declined to attend the hearing. Soon after, their licenses were suspended, and their jobs were taken over by others whose licensing status remains in question.

Tribal members have petitioned Wolfchild, Adolphson and Blue to resign previously, but the three ignored the challenge. The first petition was circulated shortly after the three officials, who comprise a majority on the Council, voted to add nine members to the tribal rolls in possible violation of tribal and federal laws. Members of the Lower Sioux Community asked the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) more than seven months ago to rule on whether the enrollments were legal, but so far the NIGC has failed to issue a decision. Dennis Prescott said he and other concerned community members have been told they can expect a decision on Monday.

"This government has acted like a runaway train," Prescott said. "The majority of community members now recognize that they made a very bad decision when they put these three individuals in charge. We are determined to undo that decision and put the government back in the hands of the people."

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