Tribal factions collide at Chukchansi Gold hotel-casino
The Chukchansi tribal council election has been upheld after appeals were filed by four candidates who were not among those who will be seated.
While some on a losing side vow to keep appealing the results, one Chukchansi leader says it is time to move forward so the tribe’s casino in Coarsegold can reopen. It has been closed for more than a year after an armed takeover attempt led authorities to shutter the facility.
The Oct. 3 election favored seven candidates from the Morris Reid faction. Three of those elected were on the federally recognized “interim council” from 2010, which was named by the federal government to oversee council business since earlier this year.
Two members of the 2010 council, Nancy Ayala and Reggie Lewis, filed appeals of the election. Two other candidates, Melvin Espe and Donna Featherstone, who have served on councils in the past few years, also filed an opposition to the results.
One of the major grounds for appeal was the voter rolls. Lewis was opposed to the tribe allowing voter rolls from the 2010 election. He said the rolls from 2012, which removed about 150 voters from 2010 because they were disenrolled, should have been used.
The tribal council voted 4-3 earlier this year to use the 2010 voter list.
Lewis said Friday that the council historically had never allowed people to vote who weren’t members of the tribe. He said he thinks they were the difference in the Reid faction’s victory.
Elected tribal council: Morris Reid, Harold Hammond, Claudia Gonzales, Dixie Jackson, Tom Walker, Nokomis Hernandez and Dora Jones.
“It would have been a lot closer and a much more fair election,” Lewis said.
Only about half of those eligible to vote participated in the election. To that point, Lewis said tribe members shouldn’t complain about their leadership if half choose not to vote.
In its response to the appeals, Indian Dispute Resolution Services in Sacramento said it followed the tribal council’s decision in approving the voter rolls from 2010. Steven Haberfeld, the agency’s senior mediator, said that the agency couldn’t divert from the tribal council’s decision.
“Indian Dispute Resolution Services was not given any special authority to determine or question the contents of the eligible voter list,” he wrote in a nine-page decision. “(The agency) understood this to be within the sole discretion of the tribe.”
Two other factions, the former Tex McDonald faction, now chaired by Monica Davis, and the original tribal family led by Luke Davis, also opposed the latest results.
It was illegal, and we don’t believe in the results.
Luke Davis, leader of the council representing original tribal families
The Luke Davis faction opposed the election in tribal court and got a temporary restraining order from Judge Anthony Famulary to stop any election until the tribe’s historical enrollment issues are resolved.
“It was illegal, and we don’t believe in the results,” said Luke Davis. He is a cousin of Monica Davis.
Monica Davis said her group will conduct an election in December under the guidance of the tribal court and will continue working with the Luke Davis faction to straighten out the enrollment issues.
Representatives of Morris Reid’s faction said they don’t recognize Famulary as a tribal court judge.
Factional battles over audits for Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino led to the casino office raid last October.
In suggesting an end to his tribal political career, Lewis was philosophical over the rejection of his appeal.
“Everybody wants everything to get pushed aside and get the casino open,” he said. “I’m fine with that.”
The new council members will be sworn in Monday night at a tribal ceremony in Oakhurst.