Despite comments raised by the public at Wednesday’s Camp Verde Town Council meeting charging that a proposed intergovernmental agreement between the town and the Yavapai-Apache Nation favors the latter, Tribal Chairman Vincent Randall said “no” to its proposed terms.
Randall said the terms in the IGA were not what both sides negotiated. He went on to say that the Nation could not accept the IGA as presented by the town July 31 and that will put the ball back in the council’s court. He encouraged continued negotiations.
After more than four months of negotiations, the town delivered what it viewed to be its acceptable version of the IGA related to the Nation’s illegal mining operation on residentially-zoned land it owns near Arizona 260 and Old Highway 279. In March, to avoid litigation and because legal disputes on the matter, the town entered into negotiations with the Nation to resolve it, hopefully to the satisfaction of both sides.
The IGA contains several stipulations, including terms for a seven-year permit for the mining operation and suggested in-lieu fees the Nation would pay the town if it is successful in transferring the land to trust status, thereby removing it from the town’s jurisdiction with regard to taxation and zoning matters.
Despite apparent violations of the public records law for refusing to disclose a draft of the IGA, the town council only agreed to release the latest document to the public Aug. 1, a day after submitting it to the Nation for its review and comment. The Nation responded this week. At a last-minute executive session, the council went over the Nation’s response. There has been no official list of objections from Randall released to the public at this time, and Randall could not be reached for comment.
Town officials assured the public the opportunity to comment on the proposal before it was adopted. Another public hearing is scheduled for an Aug. 23 council meeting, and according to Town Manager John Roberts, the council will continue to move forward on public input of its acceptable version of the IGA before voting to either accept or reject it.
As expected, several nearby neighbors complained about the terms of the IGA Wednesday evening, mainly citing monetary financial disadvantages to the town. Complaints included the mutual defense agreement whereby both sides would assume financially responsibility for any lawsuits initiated over the IGA. Another complaint stemmed around the Nation’s agreement to submit only 50 percent of any sales tax received should trust status be conveyed at the federal level.
At both public hearings, the public had and will again have the chance to comment on modifications to the town’s mining ordinance, which is what first led to the town’s dispute with the Nation.
Although Randall could not be reached for further comment, a letter hand-delivered to the town council Aug. 16 stated, “I write to lodge the Yavapai-Apache Nation’s objection to the public hearing to be conducted tonight by the town council. As you are all aware, our respective representatives have been working diligently to arrive at a proposed resolution regarding the Nation’s activities on the Cloverleaf-Tunlii property. The town has unilaterally released its version of an intergovernmental agreement. The town council’s version is not the product of negotiations between the parties. To make matters worse, the town is now moving forward with a public hearing on this document. The Yavapai-Apache Nation fears that the town council is misleading the public through its actions.”
He goes on to say that the Nation has “refrained from releasing its IGA drafts to the public or press. It is disheartening that the town does not similarly respect the government-to-government negotiations which could lead to a resolution of our differences.”
Although Randall did not list his objections publicly, it is speculated that the conditions of the new proposed mining ordinance revisions could be at its core. The Nation’s Sand and Rock General Manager Ed Davidson stood up during the meeting and voiced a complaint about the new regulations, citing 14 objections, although no one has a copy of the objections, according to Roberts.
Randall did suggest in his letter that a mediator or facilitator be hired, with both sides sharing in that cost, in order to reach some kind of compromise. The Nation has kept quiet on its position and negotiating points.
The soft-toned Randall recapped the history of the entire operation from his viewpoint and indicated that although accused of being “bullies” by audience member and neighbor to the mining operation Burke Scagnelli during the comment period, they were anything but.
Scagnelli said IGA as proposed would have adverse ramifications to the town and the neighbors. He said, . . . “just maybe they (the Nation) could set about being big brothers instead of big bullies.”
Randall said the Nation had honest intentions and good faith during the entire process that began with a permit application rejected by the town. He went on that the Nation had received legal advice indicating the permit was not necessary. Randall said it was the town council that suggested negotiating for an IGA, which the Nation willingly agreed to do.
He said, “We still feel we could go to the courts, but we would both lose. By negotiating in true faith, there will be victories on both ends.”
Despite the Nation’s rejection of the IGA, a public comment period will Aug. 23, at which time, the town council is expected to either vote in favor of or reject its version of the IGA.
According to Roberts, “We appreciate him (Randall) coming down and expressing his reaction to the IGA, but the council made a commitment to follow a process and will continue to do so. We appreciate his willingness to discuss the issues.” Roberts and others have intimated that the version released to the Nation is its final version.
The council agreed to write to the Nation on the town’s position.
Nation Vice Chair Fred Sanchez took a strong stance with the town council by saying that the Nation is going to bring economic development to the town and the “doors are open” and they are still ready to “negotiate.” He said that Nation members were “nothing up to five years ago” when gaming came along, and now they are a “force to be reckoned with.”