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

Categories: Wild, Wild West

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

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

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

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

West Valley Resort.jpg
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

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

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

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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Former Florence Town Manager Himanshu Patel Vying for Manager in Cave Creek

Categories: Wild, Wild West


Himanshu Patel, who spent about a decade managing the town of Florence, now is vying to become Cave Creek city manager. 
Patel is competing against Peter Jankowski, from Massachussetts, and James Palenick, from North Carolina, for the job. And Cave Creek town officials are expected to make a final decision at December 16 council meeting. 

While he had a long stint in Florence, questions have been raised about his final act as a Florence official.

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Florence Detective Who Was Fired/Rehired Facing Retaliation, According to Memos

Categories: Wild, Wild West

Former Florence Police Detectives Walt "Hondo" Hunter and Jarris Varnrobinson. Hunter is now the town code enforcement officer.
Despite their best efforts to get rid of Walt "Hondo" Hunter, Florence Police Chief Dan Hughes and Lieutenant Terry Tryon were forced to accept him back as a member of the Florence Police Department.

The pair orchestrated Hunter's termination in December over alleged town policy violations. But Hunter appealed and a hearing officer in October found there was no merit to his termination. (Ironically, Hunter's partner -- and the town's only black detective -- Jarris Varnrobinson, was fired on the same day over nearly identical allegations of policy violations, but his termination was not overturned.)

Reinstatement to the Florence Police Department hasn't exactly been a victory for the wrongfully terminated detective. Instead, he's being written up for asking questions, "talking over" his boss and, gasp! interrupting a chair delivery.

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