Tribe under heat in California

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EL CAJON, Calif. - A San Diego County Indian tribe is in a publicity mess after the announcement that it was delaying payments consisting of at least $30 million of casino profits and revenue from California's lacking coffers.

The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation has yet to ratify its revised 2006 compact with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that enforced the payments. The compact allows the tribe to significantly increase its gaming operations. The deadline to ratify was Dec. 15, 2006. It now has until January to ratify the compact or face cancellation.

News of the governor-approved delay came just days after the tribe donated $45,000 to an organization in partnership with Schwarzenegger that supports a redistricting state initiative on the November general election ballot. The timing of that donation and what newspapers are calling the tribe's ''secret'' and exploitive use of a ''loophole'' in the deal that allowed them to avoid payment has got the tribe facing some criticism.

Sycuan Band spokesman Adam Day said the news reports were not accurate and that the tribe was not obligated to disburse the payments.

''The compact is not in effect yet. It requires approvals from three sovereign governments - the state, federal and tribal,'' he said, adding that the tribe needed more time to plan the casino's expansion.

The revised compact would give the tribe 3,000 more slots, for a total of 5,000, but require from the tribe a $20 million per year payout to the state's general fund plus 15 percent of the net wins from the additional slots. In addition, a $3 million-per-year payment to nongaming tribes would be required.

California Department of Finance Deputy Director for External Affairs H.D. Palmer said the state had projected its current and next year's revenue quantity with the assumption of that revenue: $6 million this fiscal year and $33.6 million for the next fiscal year.

''It's how much less we will receive in revenue that we projected for,'' he said.

Day said there was no specific reason why the tribe made the donation to the redistricting effort and that the tribe has historically donated to a variety of organizations. The June 5 donation was given to California Voters First, an organization heavily financed by Schwarzenegger, according to California Secretary of State records.

''Our contribution was to the organization, not to the governor. The governor does not control those funds,'' Day said.

Voters First spokesman Molly Weedn said she didn't know why the tribe was interested in the redistricting effort or whether a solicitation was made to the tribe.