Lima, Ohio – Lima City Council this week unanimously rejected a local ordinance that would have authorized two agreements with the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, subject to approval of city residents.
The first agreement represented a contrived land settlement over which the Shawnee has no authority to seek claim due to an 1831 treaty and the City has no statutory authority to surrender territory to a sovereign power. The second agreement, dubbed an "intergovernmental agreement" outlines the terms for operating a casino and other tribally owned businesses on the surrendered land.
After more than eighteen months of negotiations, Lima City Mayor David Berger decided that some of the details, such as the length of the contract and sovereign immunity for the Tribe, could not be satisfactorily worked out in time to meet the deadline to file the language for the 2007 ballot.
"Council's rejection of the mayor's proposed ordinance is an important victory for Lima and Allen County," stated Melanie Elsey, Roundtable Legislative Director. "This deal was tainted from the beginning." But Elsey quickly added, "Residents of Allen County and the State of Ohio need to stay vigilant. The Tribe has vowed to continue their efforts to open casinos in other communities and Mayor Berger has not ruled out continued negotiations for Lima."
Federal law providing for tribal casinos expressly prohibits an Indian tribe from opening a casino on land acquired after 1988, with a few narrow exceptions. If one tribe is able to file a phony land claim for the purpose of creating a phony land settlement (one of the federal exceptions), then any other tribe with a historical connection to Ohio can follow suit. The actions of one city council will literally have a domino effect across the entire state.
The Eastern Shawnee Tribe may continue to draw local communities into their scheme and residents of Ohio will continue to see the deal for what it is - a wolf in sheep's clothing.
The Ohio Roundtable is a division of the American Policy Roundtable, founded in 1980. The Roundtable is a non-profit, independent organization promoting positive alternatives in public policy.