The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe filed a lawsuit against Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne today, accusing him of undue delay and acting in bad faith over the tribe's application to put a casino by the Monticello Raceway in New York.
The application has been essentially complete since February, but Interior still must issue a determination. The tribe's attorneys say it's unprecedented for the step to take this long, and say Kempthorne's personal feelings about off-reservation gambling are what's holding it up. Read Legal Times' story about the issue here.
In a statement about the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. today, the tribe says the suit is meant to compel Kempthorne to take action on the tribe's application within 30 days. The tribe says their requests to meet with Kempthorne have received no response, despite efforts by New York officials and the New York Congressional delegation, including Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Charles Rangel.
Kempthorne, a former governor of Idaho, has publicly said he opposes off-reservation gaming, and officials at Interior say Kempthorne is working to reconcile his past stance with his current role as a trustee when it comes to gaming. The department is also considering new regulations that would make approval of such applications less likely. But in the meantime, more and more tribes have been complaining about delays processing applications at Interior. The complaints triggered a hearing this month by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) called department backlogs "unacceptable."