“Tribal council, gaming commissioners at odds”

Monday night meeting could result in ouster.

“SUQUAMISH – An ongoing dispute between the Suquamish Tribal Gaming Commission (TGC) and the Tribal Council on whether the commission has overstepped its authority could result in the removal of all three Tribal Gaming Commissioners. A hearing conducted by the Tribal Council is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday to determine if any action will be taken. Commission chairman Roger Contraro was notified in an Aug. 21 memorandum from the Tribal Council of the council’s intent to remove him and the other gaming commissioners from office. The memo also included a list of specific allegations involving the administration of a game and the handling of casino personnel gaming license suspensions. The Suquamish Tribal Gaming Commission is the regulatory body of the casino, and is independent from the Tribal Council. The TGC monitors and ensures compliance with tribal, state and federal gaming laws, according to a bulletin from National Indian Gaming Commission. The commission is also the licensing authority for casino employees and according to the National Indian Gaming Commission, should have unrestricted access to all areas of gaming operations and all records. It should also have clear authority to take enforcement actions, including suspension or revocation of an individual gaming license, where appropriate. The Aug. 21 memo from the Tribal Council to the Tribal Gaming Commission alleges the commissioners failed to adequately oversee the administration of the car giveaway game at the Clearwater Casino. It also alleges the commissioners failed to oversee and take action regarding the suspension of gaming licenses. The document claims a casino employee’s license was revoked and pay was withheld after a confrontation with a TGA agent. The third accusation alleges that the Tribal Gaming Agency threatened to suspend an employee’s gaming license for not withholding pay from another employee whose license was suspended. A hearing concerning these allegations was originally scheduled for Aug. 29, but has been postponed several times. Gaming commission members, in a Aug. 22 memo to the Tribal Council called the allegations, malicious and disparage our reputations and individual and collective knowledge of gaming regulation, which is unfounded. They asked for time to retain legal counsel. A hearing that was previously set for Sept. 12 has been postponed until Monday. Tribal council chairman Bennie Armstrong would not comment on the situation calling it a sensitive, and internal matter that has been inflamed by speculation in the community. Tribal attorney Michelle Hansen referred all questions to the tribal chairman. Fredric Gushin, attorney for the gaming commission members said Thursday that the allegations are bogus. He has filed motions to have the case dismissed, refuting claims against the commissioners, requesting the hearing be open to the public. In an Aug. 30 response from Gushin to the Tribal Council, the commission refuted the claims made against it. He stated the commissioners were acting within their authority concerning all claims. Gushin said he received notice from the Tribal Council late Thursday night denying all motions, including the request to have the hearing open to the public. “

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