Casino discussed during public comment at council meeting
BY JESSICA WESTON
City Editor email@example.com
The Timbisha Shoshone casino project was not listed as a regular agenda item for the Ridgecrest City Council meeting on Wednesday, but it came up several times anyway. Two members of the public attempted to bring the topic up for discussion or questions, only to be rebuffed by Assistant City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen. Pilchen repeatedly said that as a closed session item the arbitration case between the city and the tribe could not be discussed in open session.
First up was Megan Richter, who identified herself as an engineer during public comment.
'Nothing for the casino is on the agenda today?' Richter asked. She added that she has been reading up on the issue and 'it seemed you guys were considering outside counsel for arbitration with the Timbisha [Shoshone] Tribe regarding land sales, is that still accurate or no?'
Pilchen replied, 'in the closed session agenda, there is an ongoing arbitration matter that was filed against the city and that is called Timbisha Shoshone Tribe vs. City of Ridgecrest so that's an arbitration matter. We don't discuss closed session matters in open session but the city council is using outside counsel.'
Richter asked if arbitration is the only option.
Pilchen replied, 'we are not going to discuss matters that are ongoing.'
Next up was casino developer Nigel White, who has frequently spoken in council meetings in conjunction with the project with the Timbisha Shoshone tribe. White mentioned the casino agreement recently approved by Kern County and handed out a twosided sheet showing —he said — that the Ridgecrest
SEE CASINO, A5
At the Ridgecrest City Council meeting August 7, casino developer Nigel White hands Dave Matthews a fact sheet, which White said described a benefits comparison between the planned Kern County casino and the Ridgecrest one.
JESSICA WESTON/DAILY INDEPENDENT
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casino project stands to be even more profitable than the Kern County one. In his 20-year analysis comparison, White said he found that the Kern County casino project would bring in $597 a person, whereas the Ridgecrest casino project would bring in $1,087.
White said in his opinion the council is crazy not to take a harder look at the deal.
'Make sure you get it signed and follow your MSA, avoid litigation and avoid a big hit to the city's coffers,' he concluded.
Scott Miller also spoke up. Miller confronted Vice Mayor Wallace Martin, who appeared to be looking away from the podium. 'Mr. Martin is there something interesting on the wall over there?' Miller said. 'I am not sure if Mr. Martin is OK right now.'
Mayor Peggy Breeden said, 'it's ok.'
'We have an active MSA in play with the tribe signed by the city of Ridgecrest and by council that was agreed by council, we have a plot of land that was for sale for I think 17 years and the tribe wanting to buy it for 5.5 million [with the city getting half,' he said.
Miller went on to give his opinion that the city was remiss by not agreeing to meet and confer with the tribe and by not using the city-casino committee that was the previous set up to hammer things out. Miller said the committee met only once.
'The city has had ample time to meet and confer and talk,' Miller said. He asked Pilchen if he could disclose the price tag of the outside counsel city was engaging.
'There is case law that while a matter is pending that is attorney-client privilege,' Pilchen replied.
Self-described 'gambling addict' Richard Wagner also spoke up. Wagner was an outspoken opponent of the casino during the meetings before the approval of the MSA.
'I am a gambling addict. I love to gamble. I love casinos. I just want to say that a thousand dollars a head will cost me over 20 years a couple of hundred thousand dollars,' Wagner said.
Pending litigation between the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe and the city of Ridgecrest was listed as one of three closed session items on the meeting agenda.
Pilchen reported at the outset of the public meeting that city council met in closed session on those three items, was briefed by staff, and gave direction but no final action was taken.