Is Cherokee Nation Entertainment really hiding information on its complimentary services at the Casinos?
This accusation has been made by some Cherokees over the past year, but with an article in the Print Edition of the June Cherokee Phoenix, this accusation takes on an interesting significance.
In the article, (see sidebar) reporter Tesina Jackson writes that during the Cherokee Nation’s Gaming Commission (CNGC) meeting in April, the Gaming Commission said that CNE has not provided them with the 2013 financial audit regarding complimentary services. Complimentary services can include items given free of charge such as alcoholic beverages, food, hotel rooms, limo rides, gifts, entertainment passes and concert tickets. These complimentary services are used by CNE officials, tribal councilors and the administration — and can also be given away at their discretion.
The article quotes Jamine Hummingbird, CNGC Director, as saying, “The last response I got from the (CNE) audit director at that time was the information had been sent to the AG’s office, that I needed to contact him to get that information. So I did, and what is being questioned is the commission’s right and authority to request those types of audits, whether or not that is in the regulatory scope of the commission.”
In the Phoenix article, CNGC Commissioner, Stacy Leeds, asks Hummingbird if they have received those types of records in the past and Hummingbird says they have.
In short, the Gaming Commission has been asking for complimentary services financial reports for 2013 and after repeated requests, have not received them. In April, it appears they had been requesting the reports for “the past several months.”
What makes this story interesting is that on April 15th, the tribal council amended the law to prevent the Gaming Commission from overseeing non-gaming operations that includes these types of complimentary services (see last week’s Cherokee Voice story “Limiting Gaming Commission’s Power”).
But once the amended law was passed, the Gaming Commission was still seeking those records, perhaps it was because both versions of the law say the Gaming Commission “shall have immediate, unfettered access to all areas of a gaming facility to review, inspect, examine, photocopy and/or audit all records of the gaming facility.”
In the Phoenix article, Hummingbird supports the wording of the new law by saying, “It’s within our scope to verify that not only are the comps themselves being processed properly in accordance with the TICS (tribal internal control standards) but that there is proper financial accountability.”
In addition to all of this, what appears interesting is these same complimentary services records are currently being sought by tribal councilor Julia Coates. In 2013, she filed a Freedom Information Act requesting copies of them. Her request was denied and she filed a lawsuit against the administration and CNB to get them (See Cherokee Voice story “The Transparency Lawsuits”).
From CNE refusing to give records, to the administration fighting the requests in court and the tribal council changing the law, it certainly appears something is up with these complimentary financial records. Maybe it’s nothing, but because no information has been released, Cherokees don’t know who is getting these free services and how much they are getting.
The article says that as of May 16, neither CNE nor the Attorney General had provided the Gaming Commission with the audit.