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Tribal members 'want some answers' Saturday

May 18, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Former Northern Arapaho Gaming Commission member Curtis Addison contends the tribe's casino managers banned him from their premises because of concerns he has about tribal gaming operations.

Addison joined about 50 other tribal members Tuesday at Great Plains Hall to voice concerns about their government and casinos in preparation for the tribe's General Council meeting, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at Great Plains Hall.

Addison believes he was given an exclusion order May 11 at the Little Wind Casino because of the questions he plans to raise during the Northern Arapaho Tribe's General Council meeting.

"I really seriously think it's my agenda items ... and these informational meetings we have to inform the people," Addison said about receiving the order kicking him out of the casino. "They don't want to inform the people."

Addison said he has heard of at least one other tribal member getting kicked out of a casino for reasons termed as politically motivated.

The concerns raised by Addison and others highlight the significance of the tribe's General Council meeting.

The meeting is happening amid a storm of complaints levied by Northern Arapaho members concerning spending of gaming revenues as the tribal government issued layoffs recently to possibly dozens of tribal employees.

In addition to gaming concerns, tribal members will discuss a proposal to give tribal members three payments of $500 each this year in addition to removing the Northern Arapaho Business Council members and appointing new ones.

"It's a strong agenda," said General Council chairwoman Kim Harjo. "It shows that people are really upset, and they want some answers."

Addison's concerns are the second item on the meeting's agenda. The General Council meeting consists of all enrolled Northern Arapaho members 18 and older.

All of his concerns pertain to the tribe's gaming operations and General Council mandates he alleges the casino's management ignores.

Addison is seeking to get former Business Council members Keith Spoonhunter and Kim Harjo back into office after the General Council fired them last summer because of actions initiated by casino human resources manager Andi Clifford.

"That's one of the reasons we started the meetings with the casino, to see where the money is going, and that's when they attacked us," Harjo said.

Addison also is critical of casino CEO Jim Conrad's alleged failure to meet with the General Council to gain permission for the Wind River Hotel restaurant expansion, determination of the casino's final costs, and hiring a tribal member to shadow him to take his job.

Conrad "has undermined the regulatory authority" of the Northern Arapaho Gaming Commission by allowing his managers "to do what they want without reprisal of disciplinary actions up to being fired for flagrant violations," according to the agenda.

Addison also alleges the casino has failed to follow Northern Arapaho Gaming Code regulations and other procedures.

He is seeking Conrad's termination by the General Council and rescinding a human resources resolution for allegedly being illegal.

Addison said he did not deserve to be kicked out of the casino.

"It really ticks me off. I haven't done anything wrong," he said.

Addison said his agenda topics address concerns that arose while he worked for the tribe's gaming commission.

"The reason why I'm bringing up some of these things was the reason I was treated when my term was up," he said.

"I was enforcing the regulations ... trying to, anyway," he said.

Harjo said misinformation by casino representatives is attempting to influence the General Council meeting by saying the tribe's gaming operations would close with Conrad's departure.

"The majority of our workers down there are being intimidated," Harjo said. "We're not trying to make trouble. We're trying to do good for the people."

The agenda's first submitted item deals with the Northern Arapaho Tribal Credit Program and how the Business Council may shut the program down.

"Right now due to all this unrest, turmoil, basically it all comes down to finances, money. It's things we suggested to the Business Council ... they haven't tried to help us," said Leonard Moss, chairman of the tribe's credit committee.

The agenda item proposes to remove the tribal credit program from Business Council control. There is also a proposal to request $250,000 per month from the Wind River Casino for the program.

Moss said he wants to see the tribal credit program continue to help members.

"It's the people that are suffering, and we are trying different ways to keep our finances where we can help our people," he said. "I've even requested financial help from the casino, and I've gotten no response."

The agenda also includes formation of the Great Plains Utility Organization board of directors to set up funding to improve water and wastewater services in the Arapahoe area. Other discussions involve health care issues and the tribe's veterans park and museum.

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