NEW TOWN Marcus Levings, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, says the tribe is moving foward after its finances were temporarily frozen.
In a statement released Friday and in an interview Monday, Levings, on behalf of the Three Affiliated Tribes business council and as chairman, apologized and reassured the enrolled members of the Three Affiliated Tribes, their many employees and those who receive services from the tribe regarding any hardship they experienced in the previous week.
"As a result of the Lake Sakakawea & Associates arbitration, we had a temporary disruption in our ability to access our tribal funds due to garnishment orders levied against us by Lake Sakakawea, its owners and the Wells Fargo-led group of banks involved in this dispute," Levings said.
"However, I want to reassure the membership that at no time was the tribe without adequate funds to pay our employees, our bills and to provide those services which our members rely on," Levings said.
He said payroll was released Friday and the arbitration judgment that was levied against the tribe was satisfied.
Lake Sakakawea & Associates is a company owned by tribal member Dale Little Soldier of the Twin Buttes area which was awarded money from the tribes in Burleigh County District Court regarding a judgment in a casino development case.
The Three Affiliated Tribes business council is holding more informational meetings to provide updates on oil and gas development, law enforcement, housing and other topics.
Information will also be provided by various tribal and federal program departments administered by the tribes and representative from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.
The meeting schedule was changed from an earlier announcement. The meetings are:
- Today, Parshall Memorial Hall.
- Thursday, 4 Bears Casino meeting room, west of New Town.
- Friday, White Shield Senior Citizens Center.
- Monday, Twin Buttes Community Building.
All meetings begin at 5 p.m. and dinner is provided through the respective community representatives' office.
"While we are extremely dissatisfied with the outcome of that arbitration and the extreme measures taken against the tribe and our enrolled members, it is an issue that needed to be addressed in order for the tribe to continue its duty to provide governmental services to our members, our elders and the many people who rely on the Three Affiliated Tribes," Levings said.
To pay off the judgment, Levings said Monday that the tribes made some partnership changes in terms and agreement with Red Willow, the oil and gas business of the Southern Ute tribe in Colorado to obtain $10 million. Red Willow is in partnership with the Three Affiliated Tribes in oil and gas development. Some of the money will go into the general fund, he said.
Levings said the tribes have "acted in good faith and followed all the agreements," yet he said all of the tribes' funds were frozen temporarily. While the money was frozen, Levings said the 4 Bears Casino and officials at Lakeside State Bank in New Town helped them.
He said he commends the Red Willow company, its president Robert Boorhees and chairman Matthew Box of the Southern Ute tribe for what they did.
According to a news release issued by Levings' office in early October, an agreement was made between the tribes and Lake Sakakawea & Associates that the casino development had agreed not to enforce the judgment through Oct. 15.
The Burleigh County District Court awarded Lake Sakakawea & Associates about $6.3 million as damages for breach of a contract the tribes had with Lake Sakakawea & Associates for the development and lease of a casino to be constructed on the south side of Lake Sakakawea.
Tribal officials said they withdrew from the casino project after it was financed because of problems they identified with the structure of the project and the agreements governing the project, and after attempts to renegotiate the agreements failed.
"Their project was a good project. It was the terms of agreement with LSA and Wells Fargo that was not good for the tribe," Levings said Monday.
The Burleigh County court award included $3.2 million owed by Lake Sakakawea & Associates to Wells Fargo Bank and other lenders, and $2.5 million to Lake Sakakawea & Associates for lost profits.
The court also ordered the tribes to be responsible for and pay for damages or hurt/costs suffered by Lake Sakakawea & Associates and to defend it in an action brought against Lake Sakakawea & Associates by Dallas Delorme, doing business as Totten Builders in Benson County district court for breach of contract. Lake Sakakawea & Associates agreed to a judgment against it of $937,000. Under an agreement between Lake Sakakawea & Associates and the tribes, the tribes are liable for $700,000 of that judgment, the news release said.
In the satisfaction of the judgment to Lake Sakakawea and Associates, its owners and the Wells Fargo-led group of banks, Levings said they now can move forward "to reassuming our roles and responsibilities as the government of the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Fort Berthold Reservation and our enrolled members."