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Ousted Kickapoo asks commission to probe major casino violations

HORTON, Kan. - Former leaders of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas have asked the National Indian Gaming Commission to begin an immediate investigation of the Kickapoo Tribe's Golden Eagle Casino.

Allegations of criminal activities at the casino were leveled in a July 27 letter to Chairman Monte Deer from former Kickapoo Chairman Steve Cadue, Vice Chairwoman Thelma Simon and Treasurer James Cisneros.

Cisneros was fired from the Kickapoo Gaming Commission following an investigation he began regarding the issues the trio wants investigated. Cisneros later was elected to the council and became tribal treasurer. He was removed from office because of a lawsuit filed against the tribal council over his termination as a gaming commissioner. Cadue and Simon held that Cisneros was illegally removed and their protests later led to their own dismissal from the council.

Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., was contacted by the ousted leaders and asked to assist them in getting the NICG to investigate alleged violations at the Kickapoo Casino.

In documents received by Indian Country Today, Cadue, Simon and Cisneros point to an October 1997 letter from attorneys Merz & Stacy to Phil Hogan, then NIGC commissioner. They charge the commission with negligence and malfeasance for failing to act on violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

They state that failure of the commission to investigate and act upon the violations in 1997 caused the Kickapoo Tribe to have to buy out of an illegal IGRA Class III contract with the Calumet Group which cost the tribe an estimated $9 million.

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Cadue said he believes the issue is not only important to the Kickapoo people, but to everyone in Indian country. "We, as Indian people, know the importance of Indian gaming, but we don't want a dime that has been gotten illegally. The public needs to know that we are abiding by the law."

He also said he cannot understand why the commission didn't immediately send investigators in after the initial correspondence in 1997. He said its inability to step in put the Kickapoo Tribe in a blackmail situation in which they had to pay to get out of the Calumet partnership. One, Cadue said would make every Kickapoo tribal member liable until the $9 million debt is paid.

Cadue asserts the October 1997 letter to the commission backs up allegations by Jimmy Cisneros regarding operation of the casino.

At the commission, a spokesperson said the letter from Cadue, Simon and Cisneros had not arrived.. It was explained that the normal procedure for handling requests for investigations of Indian gaming facilities begins by examining whether the parties calling for the investigation have put forth relevant facts. If a preliminary investigation is deemed necessary, a field investigator is sent to the facility and that person decides whether further action or investigation is needed.

Until the commission has time to examine the letter from Cadue, Simon and Cisneros, it is unknown if there will be an investigation.

Since state laws and the gaming compact may have been involved or broken, Gov. Bill Graves has been contacted by the former tribal officials, and other state officials have been asked to investigate possible wrongdoing and illegal activities at the casino.