Thunder Valley was initially supported by Station Casino of Las Vegas, a consulting client of Darius Anderson, well known political strategist and fund raiser. Later, the same combination founded the Rohnert Park casino now under construction, but there is a glitch that may eventually undermine both casinos.
The potential road block may create a big surprise for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
According to my research and that of Stop The 101 Casino Coalition, it appears the Rohnert Park compact was approved by Governor Jerry Brown based on stale dated proposals from 2003, of which Thunder Valley served as a model.
These memoranda were written for another property ond mile west, that the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR), the Tribe sponsoring the Casino, never actually owned. The current property site is nowhere referenced in the state approvals. Thus the current site is not properly approved. As such, rightful ownership did not transfer appropriately from the State through the Federal Agencies and into Indian Reservation sovereign territory.
Therefore, the casino technically is illegal since gambling is not permitted in California (and the land is still considered California).
The Federal Government clearly stated in the 2009 Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) that the documents do not apply to the new site. Even the Rohnert Park City Manager is said to have admitted this fact.
Gov. Brown’s office was put on notice of this problem on May 21, 2012, as part of a legal action taken against the Governor’s Compact. The Attorney General's office was notified of this deficiency on August 7, 2012, when Rohnert Park’s City Manager admitted in the Press that the MOU was invalid
It seems corrective action by Governor Brown never came. He could have ordered the project to halt and renegotiate all the proper documents with the corrected parcel. It’s unclear why Brown didn’t act. Reports are that the tribe leader Greg Sarris is a close friend of Governor Brown. Had a renegotiation been required Rohnert Park may have received a better deal given economic conditions at the time of approval versus the stale dated original paperwork.
Here are some other thoughts on why the deal may have been pushed through and not questioned. Darius Anderson is a well-known Democratic Lobbyist having worked for a political official earlier in his career.
His circles are within one degree of separation of the governor. Anderson was said to be arranging funding from Station Casinos, a Las Vegas Casino Operating Company that he also consults for. Anderson was said to have outstanding invoices to FIGR and wanted to terminate the relationship and be paid out.
This is the same casino group that initially proposed a Casino in Sonoma Valley near Infineon Raceway off Route 37 near Lakeville Road. Darius Anderson, well known political consultant ironically now living in Sonoma, worked diligently with the tribe as far back as 2003.
Anderson now owns the Northbay newspapers (Press Democrat, Petaluma Argus and the Sonoma Index Tribune) with a group of partners and is also among other projects, independently proposing a hotel in Sonoma called Chateau Sonoma just off the plaza.
Sonoma Valley was successful in fending off the casino through an aggressive grassroots campaign called “Cows Not Casinos” symbolic of protecting green/open space versus a Casino.
I can remember Anderson donating $25,000 toward the Independence Day fireworks, then picking up the Ramekins Culinary school and switching gears over to the hotel. He quickly made quite a splash in Sonoma. But many people remember and associate him with the Casino efforts. It was quite a controversial and traumatic experience for all.
Nevertheless, after failing miserably, Anderson redirected the Tribe up the 101 to Rohnert Park, where he found success.
California’s gambling compacts are written to set out the state’s requirements for the operation of tribal casinos for the protection of the public. The Governor has already failed to protect the people of California and its constitution in the matter of the Graton Rancheria casino.
He’s chosen instead to protect the casino developers at the expense of the public. If the governor will not even enforce this very critical clause in his own compact, what kind of enforcement can we expect from his office for other violations of this or other gambling compacts?
How many other casinos have similar glitches?
One last thing, both Senators Boxer and Feinstein were involved in various stages of this casino and both have conflicts of interest. Boxer’s son is involved or was involved early on when Anderson was pitching the Casino to Sonoma Valley on Lakeville Road.
Boxer pulled some strings to get the FIGR recognized when they were forming and there were questions surfaced. Additionally, Senator Feinstein’s husband is said to be involved with a large real estate company that brokers and manages commercial real estate and allegedly benefitted financially somewhere in this Casino process as well.
How did these conflicts of interest get overlooked? Why has no major news outlet dug deep enough into these issues to cast sufficient light on them for all the People to see clearly? With the ownership of the newspapers now in the hands of the very political consultant, how will the straight story ever be told?
Keep all eyes on this one. The People of Northern California deserve justice.
Ralph Hutchinson is a longtime Sonoma resident