Lansing city council expressing frustration at flow of information on casino project

Feb 20, 2012

Lansing city council members are expressing growing frustration at not getting the information they want about a proposed Indian casino project.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million casino in the capitol city.   The casino would be built adjacent to the city's downtown convention center. The city council’s approval of the deal is necessary before the tribe can ask the federal government to place the land in trust.

But again last night the council had difficulty getting answers to questions about the developers’ contract with the tribe and other issues.     

“We’re just being told…'trust us'…with a wink of the eye…that’s frustrating.” Brian Jeffries is the Lansing city council president.  

An attorney for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe says the agreement brokered by city attorneys does protect the interests of the city of Lansing and the tribe.    The tribe wants the city council to approve the deal before the end of March, so the tribe can complete it's application to the federal government to take the land into trust by late this summer.

Tribal attorney John Wernet says getting that approval from the federal government is critical.

"If that happens a casino can be developed and I think that’s going to be of great benefit to the community and to the tribe and its membership,' says Wernet.  

But Wernet cited ‘confidentiality’ issues when the council asked for information about the tribe’s contract with the project’s developers.     The city council was also told it would have to wait for information from the mayor’s office on the project.    The chief aide to Lansing’s mayor says it’s the nature of the process that there will be some uncertainty in a process that will play out over years. 

When asked if his frustration with the flow of information on the casino project could lead him to vote 'no' on the deal next month, city council president Brian Jeffries says he could reach a ‘tipping point’.   But for now, he remains open to supporting the casino deal.