ARCHIVE STORY: Report shows Winnebago Tribe Council members accepted thousands of dollars in gifts from WinnaVegas Casino
WINNEBAGO, NE (KTIV) -
A fact-finding committee released a report of the Winnebago Tribe financial records, showing that Winnebago Tribal Council members accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the WinnaVegas Casino Resort. Tribal Council also received gift certificates and compensations totaling thousands of dollars.
Winnebago Tribal Chairman John Blackhawk says he initially thought the money worked as a sort of 'employee bonus.'
He says the council members received prepaid credit cards from the casino during the holidays, and while working extra time to hire a new general manager for WinnaVegas.
"As a council member, we also have the oversight of the casino," Blackhawk said. "We hire the general manager. That was the activity that we were involved in."
The report, done by a fact-finding committee organized by the tribe, shows that tribal administration received $301,000 from the WinnaVegas Casino Resort in prepaid credit cards in fiscal year 2014.
The WinnaVegas Casino also issued $132,725 in gift certificates to tribal administration over fiscal years 2012 and 2014.
A group, calling themselves the Winnebago Tribe for the People, says the tribal council members should be held accountable for accepting these gifts.
"They need to go to jail, they need to go to prison for what they did," Winnebago Tribe for the People group leader Keely Bassette said. "That's theft, that's public corruption, that's abuse of power. And that's not something our people are going to stand for anymore."
Blackhawk says they've discontinued the program, and they've been proactive about handling the situation.
"When the rumors began in December, I'm the one that went to our controller at the casino, I'm the one that went to the gaming commission. I'm the one that said, 'let's find this out.'"
Tribal members say the small community has been hit hard, because the people they're accusing of stealing funds are family and friends.
"They need to step down and let us move on," Kellie Snow said. "We didn't ask for this. But we ask questions about this, and we ask people to be accountable."
Blackhawk says that for the time being, the council plans to look over the report and make the necessary legal adjustments to ensure that they're in compliance with the law.
The report includes findings on eleven separate areas of the tribe's finances.
Some of those findings showed that the tribe's treasurer approved employee loans that haven't been paid back, and show that the council members have received a total of more than $300,000 dollars in raises since 2012.