Tohono O’Odham Nation Ordered to Hand Over Records on Glendale Casino

The Tohono O’Odham Nation, a Southern Arizona-based tribe, has been ordered by a federal judge to disclose information regarding discussions over a Phoenix area casino that took place in the period between 2002 and 2003.

The order came after attorneys for the Indian nation argued that notes taken at closed meetings between the tribal and a district council could not be released due to lawyer-client privilege as well as other legislative considerations.

With an ongoing dispute between Arizona officials and the tribe regarding the controversial Desert Diamond West Valley Casino and Resort that opened doors late last year, the state Gaming Department is trying to prove that the tribe breached federal laws at the time when it signed its gambling regulation compact with the state in 2002.

Since launched in December, the venue has been providing limited gaming options as it has not been issued the necessary certificates for full-fledged operations.

The Tohono O’Odham Nation brought the matter to court, claiming that under its compact with the state, it should be allowed to operate a full-scale gambling venue. Arizona countersued on the grounds that the tribe made secret plans about opening the casino while at the same time promised the public that no such property would be constructed in Glendale.

Judge Campbell’s ruling would make it possible for state attorneys to look at agendas and notes from closed meetings between the tribal and the district council in the periods before and right after the agreement between the tribe and Arizona was signed.

Following the latest ruling, Edward D. Manuel, Chairman of the Tohono O’Odham Nation, commented that it was just issued as a response to a dispute regarding what information should be disclosed. Mr. Manuel also expressed confidence that the matter will soon be fully litigated and all related issues will be solved in the tribe’s favor. As he himself pointed out, there have been 20 previous court and federal agencies rulings favoring the Glendale casino project.

State Gov. Doug Ducey has formerly pointed out that he would cancel Arizona’s gambling compact with the Indian nation if it keeps on pursuing the operation of a full-scale casino. However, the state’s top official has not taken any court action so far.

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