City of Duluth Loses Appeal against Fond du Lac Band

By KBJR News 1

January 14, 2013 Updated Jan 14, 2013 at 11:35 PM CDT

(NNCNOW.com) -- Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Chairwoman Karen Diver says Monday's ruling bodes very well for the Band as they look to reinvest in their downtown Duluth locations.

"It was really hard to think about doing that, though, when another entity took 1/3 of [our] revenue away right off the top," said Diver, during a media conference on Monday.

But it's that revenue, says Duluth Mayor Don Ness, which was the primary funding for the city's road reconstruction.

"The consequences to the taxpayers and the residents of the city of Duluth are far–reaching and devastating," said Ness.

Ness says that the ruling could have nationwide impacts, claiming that 209 similar contracts between tribal governments and cities could now be in jeopardy.

"Every unit of government across this county who believes that they have a binding legal contract should worry about this ruling," said Ness.

But Diver says the main issue, for now, is ensuring the band's best interests are protected: "All options remain on the table for the band as it looks to protect its own interests, and the playing field will be determined by the city of Duluth."

The City of Duluth says it feels good about its options going forward.

"We have the right to ask for the entire 8th circuit court of appeals to review this decision," said City Attorney Gunnar Johnson, in reference to an en banc hearing option. Johnson said that Monday's decision from the 8th Circuit came from three judges, and that the possibility of that changing during a hearing where every judge is present existed.

But it's an uphill battle for the city, says Diver, who said it has been made clear time and time again that any form of revenue stream from the Band has been, and will likely to continue to be, illegal.

"That was the one thing that was prohibited to us by the National Indian Gaming Commission," said Diver.

Mayor Ness added that the City still feels confident that some sort of compromise could be reached between the Band and the city, but the main concern, says Ness, comes down to the Band's willingness to compromise.

In regard to a compromise, Chairwoman Diver said that the Band had made numerous attempts to reach a global settlement, including one as recent as a year ago which included payments for road repairs, but that Mayor Ness and the city had rejected it.

Posted to the web by Billy Wagness and Jenna Vogt