Snoqualmie Tribe responds to allegations over casino operations


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January 16, 2014 at 10:38 PM

SNOQUALMIE — One day after being accused of running Snoqualmie Casino illegally by replacing its gaming commission with the Tribal Council, Tribal Chairwoman Carolyn Lubenau said a new commission has been selected and is being directed, in the interim, by the tribe’s police chief.

Lubenau said the selection of three new Snoqualmie Gaming Commissioners was made Thursday, and had no connection to a lawsuit filed last Friday or a report on accusations included in the litigation by KING 5 the day before.

The lawsuit, filed by former SGC Chairman William Papazian, outlines a deteoriating relationship between the commission and the Snoqualmie Casino staff it is required by law to oversee.

According to federal law, tribal gaming agencies/commissions must be independent from the casinos and tribes they watch.

Lubenau said Thursday the problems between the SGC and the casino had nothing to do with Papazian, but the Executive Director and Manager he hired.

“We want professionals,” she explained, “You have to be above reproach.  You can’t have tantrums.”

Lubenau said commission staff frequently threatened to pull gaming licenses from casino personnel “for no reason”.  The tribe, she said, conducted two independent investigations.

“It was very clear, if we wanted to have our gaming commission functioning in the way we want to go, we need to terminate those two positions,” said Lubenau.

Papazian refused to go along, according to Lubenau and court documents, and resigned.

“It was very amicable,” recalled Lubenau, “He said in the resignation it was a family matter.”

Beyond what led to his departure is what Papazian alleged has happened in the interim, the SGC being filled with the Tribal Council.

Just one day after the situation became public, Lubenau said changes have been made.  Thursday, three commissioners were appointed under an interim Executive Director, police chief Gene Fenton.

None of the commissioners have gaming experience, which is not required by law.  Fenton is handling background checks for all casino employees, a task usually handled by the SGC.

“We won’t be caught by surprise when things are not working right,” said Lubenau, “We can fix things before they get to this point where they unravel so quickly like they did.”

As for why Papazian would file a lawsuit against his former employer, accusing it of “fraud”, “racketeering”, and “money laundering”, Lubenau thinks the answer is simple.  Money.

Fmr. Snoqualmie gaming commissioner calls casino operation ‘illegal’


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January 15, 2014

SNOQUALMIE — William Papazian, the former chairman of the Snoqualmie Gaming Commission, is suing three casino executives and two tribal council members for ousting fellow commissioners and replacing the entity responsible for independent oversight of gambling operations with themselves.

The litigation was flied in U.S. Federal Court last Friday.

The Snoqualmie Tribe, which is not specifically named in the lawsuit, denied Papazian’s claims and said it planned to help defent the accused.

Papazian chaired the Snoqualmie Gaming Commission for five years.  He resigned November 27, 2013 as other employees with the body were being fired, he alleged.

The commission is required by federal law and through a gaming compact, or agreement, the tribe has with U.S. and state authorities.  It is tasked to handle background checks of employees, ensure protocol is followed and keep an eye on casino floor operations.  It is supposed to be, “independent” and “separate…from that of the Gaming Facility or Tribal Government,” according to the compact.

Papazian alleges he and his fellow commission members and employees were removed and replaced by the Snoqualmie Tribal Council so it could “run an illegal, unregulated gambling operation”.

Furthermore, he accuses the defendants of racketeering, money laundering and fraud.

Papazian, who lives in Arizona, declined to comment.

The Washington State Gambling Commission confirmed Wednesday it was told by the Snoqualmie Tribe its council was taking “interim control” of its own gaming commission, and that it had no immediate concerns.

A spokesperson with the National Indian Gaming Commission, which approves all gaming compacts, would not confirm or deny if it was investigating the Snoqualmie Casino.

The tribe would not say who is on its gaming commission now or when a new one would be selected.

In a statement, the tribe wrote, “It is disappointing to know that our former employee, Mr. Papazian, has chosen to file a baseless civil complaint.  Mr. Papazian’s allegations are completely false and without merit.  The Snoqualmie Tribe will vigorously defend this case and support the named defendants.  This

complaint will not disrupt the workings of Tribal Government or Casino operations.  We will continue to work hard to help our people.”