Saturday, October 12, 2013

JESSICA TAVARES et al vs GENE WHITEHOUSE et al Case 2:13-cv-02101-TLN-CKD Filed 10/10/13

A lawsuit was filed on 10/10/13 titled:

SUEHEAD, unlawfully banished members
of the United Auburn Indian Community,
WILLIAMS and DANNY REY, in their
official capacity as members of the Tribal
Council of the United Auburn Indian

Case 2:13-cv-02101-TLN-CKD Filed 10/10/13

Howard Dickstein is featured prominently in the lawsuit.  As far as I know Howard Dickstein is still Pala's Attorney.

Here are some excerpts:
"Specifically, petitioners took issue with several decisions made by the 2011 Tribal Council, including its refusal to seek restitution of $25 million in tribal gaming revenues paid to the Tribe’s counsel, Howard Dickstein (“Dickstein”) under an illegal contract he wrote for his unjust enrichment and convinced the Tribal Council to sign, to the great detriment of the Tribe."
"Despite guarantees in federal law protecting petitioners from punishment for engaging in political speech, the 2011 Tribal Council summarily deemed petitioners’ speech “defamatory” under an ordinance that Dickstein drafted and urged the Tribal Council to adopt – an ordinance whose language echoes the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 (1 Stat. 596)."
"Without providing meaningful notice or opportunity for petitioners to be heard, the 2011 Tribal
Council summarily sentenced them to years of banishment from all tribal lands, stripped them of
all rights associated with membership (including the right to run for election to any tribal office),
and imposed severe sanctions upon them by curtailing hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial benefits to which all other tribal members are entitled."
"The 2011 Tribal Council inflicted this criminal-like punishment on petitioners so as to maintain complete and unquestioned control over the Tribe and its assets. Among other reasons, the 2011 Tribal Council members and Dickstein wanted to conceal their unauthorized transfer of tribal assets to a secret escrow account (“slush fund”) designed to benefit them personally at the Tribe’s expense. As petitioners would later learn, the 2011 Tribal Council and Dickstein diverted millions of dollars in tribal funds to this secret, irrevocable slush fund held by the San Francisco branch of U.S. Bank. Petitioners are informed and believe, and thereon allege, that the 2011 Tribal Council members can access this fund if they are ever ousted from office, disenrolled from the Tribe, removed from the Tribal Council, denied their per capita distributions of gaming revenues or sued by the Tribe for their malfeasance in office. In addition, the slush fund inures to the direct benefit of Dickstein and a former Tribal Administrator who is under indictment by the federal government for embezzling millions of dollars from the Tribe (and is now in private, closed arbitration proceedings to enforce his right to use slush fund monies to pay for his defense of the criminal embezzlement indictment against him). Although neither Dickstein nor the former Tribal Administrator is a member of the Tribe, they both have the express and unlimited authority to tap the slush fund."
"a. The Tribal Council did not deny that $25 million was paid to the Tribe’s attorney, Dickstein, as claimed by petitioners, but only asserted that the money also went to two other attorneys at his firm. (In fact, petitioners are informed and believe, and on that basis allege, that Dickstein kept the lion’s share of the $25 million for himself and paid only a small portion of it to other lawyers).

"b. The Tribal Council did not deny that the $25 million in legal fees paid to Dickstein’s firm were improperly based on a percentage of casino revenues distributed to the Tribe pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, as claimed by petitioners, but only asserted that the payments were made on the “tribal side” after “management fees” and repayment of “construction loans” were made."
"The 2011 Tribal Council acted contrary to the interests of the Tribe and outside the course and scope of their authority as tribal officers, not only by punishing petitioners for their exercise of protected rights, but also by converting and misappropriating millions of dollars in tribal revenues through the secret slush fund established for the personal benefit of themselves and Dickstein."
"Specifically, petitioners are informed and believe, and on that basis allege, that members of the 2011 Tribal Council established an account for tribal officeholders, certain employees and Dickstein, immediately funding that account with $7 million in tribal assets and authorizing an additional contribution of up to $8 million in tribal monies."

Read the full lawsuit: