Tohono O'odham Nation Breaks Ground at Site of West Valley Resort and Casino

Categories: Wild, Wild West

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TON Chairman Ned Norris hugs Councilwoman Norma Alvarez, a casino supporter from Day 1.

Officials from West Valley cities, including Peoria, Tolleson, Glendale, gathered with leaders from the Tohono O'odham inside a white air conditioned tent in the middle of a dusty, vacant field this morning.

They were there to break ground on the West Valley Resort and Casino -- a momentous ceremony taking place more than five years after the project was announced.

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Groundbreaking Ceremony Tomorrow for Tohono O'odham Nation's WV Casino

Categories: Wild, Wild West

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An artist rendering of the Tohono O'odham Nation's proposed West Valley casino

It's been decades in the making, and tomorrow, the Tohono O'odham Nation is hosting a groundbreaking groundbreaking for its West Valley Resort and Casino.

The private ceremony, which will include tribal and local government leaders, comes just weeks after the City of Glendale and the Nation reached a formal agreement to work together on the resort-style casino project.

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Senator John McCain Embraces Congressman Trent Franks' Anti-West Valley Casino Bill

Categories: Wild, Wild West

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Senator John McCain at a oversight hearing hosted by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
Arizona's political heavyweights have spent years in federal court challenging the legality of Tohono O'odham Nation's proposed West Valley Resort, a casino near 91st and Northern avenues.

Since the law hasn't been on opponents' side, they've desperately been trying to change it.

Congressman Trent Franks, who is now joined by Senator John McCain, is attempting for at least the third year in a row to manipulate the terms of the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act with a narrow bill that would effectively block the Nation's casino.

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Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers Fails to Convey City's True Stance on Gaming at Senate Hearing

Categories: Wild, Wild West

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Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers testifies in Washington, D.C. at Senate Committee on Indian Gaming.

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers was among several individuals who testified before a U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday regarding plans by the Tohono O'odham Nation to build the West Valley Resort, a resort-style casino near 91st and Northern avenues.

Although Weiers had pledged to convey the city's newfound support for the Nation's proposed casino and gaming on their swath of land, he devoted two sentences to Glendale's official stance in his nearly six-minute speech.

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Major Reversal: Glendale Declares Support for Gaming on Tohono O'odham Nation's WV Land

Categories: Wild, Wild West

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Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack, Mayor Jerry Weiers and Councilman Manny Martinez opposed the Tohono O'odham Nation's proposed casino.

In a room brimming with union trades workers wearing bright-orange shirts, the Glendale City Council reversed its long-held opposition to the Tohono O'odham Nation establishing a reservation and opening an resort-style casino just outside of the city limits.

Members of the TON sat in the front row, relishing yet another victory in their five-year battle with the City of Glendale, the State of Arizona, and sister tribes.

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Florence Official's Response to Lawsuit by Filed by Former Police Detectives

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New Times' special report on Florence

Florence officials continue to deny allegations of corruption and abuse of power leveled against the town by two former detectives -- Walt Hunter and Jarris Varnrobinson.

The two police officers, who worked as detectives with the Florence Police Department until they were fired in December 2012, filed a suit in U.S. District Court claiming that they were wrongfully terminated in retaliation after they made "protected disclosures ... outside of their chain of command regarding police corruption, abuse of power, and obstruction of justice committed by the FPD and FPD officers."

Jess Knudsen, the town's spokesman and assistant manager, stated in an e-mail sent to members of the media, that "claims that Mr. Hunter and Mr. Vonzombie were fired for whistleblowing or that there is corruption in the Florence Police Department are unsubstantiated, frivolous and irresponsible."

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Glendale Applies for Nearly $800K in Grants from Longtime Nemesis Tohono O'odham Nation

Categories: Wild, Wild West

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An artist rendering of the Tohono O'odham Nation's proposed West Valley casino

A Glendale City Council decision to apply for nearly $800,000 from the Tohono O'odham Nation signals a major shift in the city's relationship with the Indian community and reveals the city's newfound perspective of the TON's plans to build a resort-style casino in the West Valley.

Council members of the cash-strapped city voted unanimously to submit various grant applications for money that is part of a revenue sharing program in which all gaming tribes are required by law to participate.

For years, Glendale officials -- both elected and appointed -- fought bitterly in Maricopa County Superior Court, U.S. District Court and in the court of public opinion and spent millions of dollars to stop the Nation from moving forward with its casino plans.

Last week, Glendale decided to try and reach into the tribe's pocket.

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Ex-Florence Police Detectives, Whistleblowers Sue Town for Wrongful Termination

Categories: Wild, Wild West

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Walt "Hondo" Hunter and Jarris Varnrobinson

Former Florence police detectives Jarris Varnrobinson and Walt Hunter filed a federal lawsuit today in U.S. District Court against the Town of Florence, the town's mayor, its police chief, police lieutenant and past town managers over the pair's firing in 2012.

The lawsuit alleges that Florence officials, including Mayor Tom Rankin, Police Chief Dan Hughes, Lieutenant Terry Tryon, former Town Manager Himanshu Patel and current Town Manager Charles Montoya conspired to "cover up ... gross misconduct at the FPD by terminating Hunter's and Varnrobinson's employment and smearing their reputations, in violation of Hunter's and Varnrobinson's federally protected civil rights."

The lawsuit also alleges that Varnrobinson's civil rights were violated by the town and its officials because he was "subject to "disparate treatment on the basis of race."

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Florence Official's Efforts to Yank Certification from Two Former Police Detectives Fails

Categories: Wild, Wild West

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Walt "Hondo" Hunter and Jarris Varnrobinson

Two former detectives fired from the Florence Police Department received good news from the officials at the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training.

AZ POST, the body that certifies police officers to carry a badge and a gun, informed both police officers in February that the state board is not taking any punitive action against their police certification and "the matter is closed."

Walt "Hondo" Hunter and Jarris Varnrobinson have been fighting to clear their name since being terminated in December 2012. They were fired, in part, for blowing the whistle on a lieutenant they believed was compromising criminal investigations by returning evidence in those cases.

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Former Florence Town Manager Himanshu Patel Doesn't Make the Cut in Cave Creek

Categories: Wild, Wild West

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Town of Cave Creek via Facebook
The Cave Creek council selected Peter Jankowski as its primary choice to serve as town manager.

James Palenick, one of the three finalists, was selected as an alternative -- in case a deal with Jankowski falls through.

While former Florence Town Manager Himanshu Patel, also one of the three finalists, received a nomination as an alternative, he failed to get enough votes.


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