The refusal of Idaho’s gaming tribes to abide by the 2002 initiative to distribute 5 percent of each year’s annual gross revenues to school districts surrounding the reservation, and to disclose how much each district receives, could lead to a lawsuit. That it could foster more animosity among Idaho’s largely white population is a foregone conclusion.
The essence of the debate is encapsulated by two phrases: a) The public has an absolute “right to know,” especially where its tax dollars are involved; and, 2) “trust, but verify!” In addition it reconfirms the old saying about true tragedy being the conflict between equally valid rights, not the conflict between right and wrong.
The immediate issue regards questions that have been raised about the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s original pledge of support for the 5 percent commitment until recent years when some surrounding districts privately acknowledged not having received any more donations. The pledge, contained in the initiative voters ratified in 2002, was viewed as the key part of the quid pro quo that permitted the gaming tribes to utilize more slot-like machines in their casinos.
Idaho’s executive director of the State Lottery is supposed to monitor and enforce tribal compliance with this feature of the initiative but in reality the oversight is non-existent. There are two obvious flaws in this scheme.
First, without an annual outside audit by an independent and reputable auditing firm how does one know with any confidence what gross receipts really are from which the 5% is calculated against? Second, Tribes have taken the position that they do not have to disclose who the recipients of this tribal education largess are and how much they may have been granted. Ipso facto, how is the public to know that the original deal is truly being honored?
Some tribes (the Coeur d’Alenes and the Nez Perce) say “trust us” and the Lottery’s executive director says he does. To many that is a dereliction of duty and the state is stinting on its responsibility to monitor and enforce compliance. Other tribes, notably the Shoshone/Bannocks, say their compact with the state and its governor trumps the initiative. Since it does not reference the 5%, they do not have to contribute nor are they. (more…)