Cherokee Nation Businesses has begun its contest of an adverse vote yesterday by the Arkansas Racing Commission on two applications for a permit to operate a casino in Pope County.
After presentations from the Cherokee tribe of Oklahoma and Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi, the seven-member commission scored the applications on a 100-point scale and chose a winner by cumulative point totals.
Gulfside led the scoring with 637 points against the Cherokees’ 572. But an anomaly stood out: Commissioner Butch Rice’s 71-point margin for Gulfside, enough to be more than the 65-point margin by which Gulfside led the scoring. Four of seven commissioners favored Gulfside, but by much smaller margins in the other three cases. The Cherokees had a majority of points from the six commissioners besides Rice.
The Cherokee Nation, in a letter and affidavit from its attorney, Dustin McDaniel, says Rice’s vote should be thrown out because he was biased by a personal relationship with Gulfside owner Terry Green, including socializing at Oaklawn Park. The Arkansas rules of administrative procedure prohibit bias in decision-makers, McDaniel wrote. He said Rice seemed to have been prepared by Gulfside for questions he’d asked at commission meetings.
Rice has told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette he thought Gulfside had a far better proposal, with a promise for more jobs and tax revenue. Commissioners had been counseled by its attorney to rate the scores closely, but Rice gave extremely low ratings to the Cherokees across the board of the four-criteria scoring process.
McDaniel asked the Commission to reconvene the review panel; consider the evidence; vote to exclude Rice’s tally, and vote based on the total from the other six commissioners. That would give the decision to the Cherokees.
The Racing Commission will decide, but a further court appeal could be a possibility. It will take up the issue at 10 a.m. Monday.
Below is the letter the Cherokee Nation sent the Racing Commission today. It’s accompanied by an affidavit that you can read here. It lays out events and Rice’s supposed bias.
The letter also promises a further affidavit this afternoon. I’ll add it on the receipt. UPDATE: It’s now attached below.
UPDATE: Here’s the affidavit of misrepresentation filed later by McDaniel. It details Green’s involvement as an owner of casino operations that had been in bankruptcy, one for six years. Green said at the meeting Thursday that he’d never filed a personal bankruptcy. McDaniel contends Green was in violation of commission rules for not fully disclosing his financial history as a casino participant. His misrepresentations harmed the Cherokee application and “the integrity and purpose of this Commission,” McDaniel wrote.