special tribal judge ruled last fall that the tribe is entitled to us$ 527,000 from BBC Entertainment, which is owned by Charles Colombe, a former tribal president. The firm managed the tribe’s casino south of Mission from 1994 to 1999 under the understanding that it would be paid 35 percent of profits as its fee.
Just as its contract was about to run out, the company paid itself us$ 399,353 more than it had coming, the tribe alleged in its lawsuit against BBC. Tribal attorney Dana Hanna of Rapid City said BBC actually took about 65 percent of the funds in the casino’s operating expenses reserve account. Colombe disputed that finding, and a tribal judge initially ruled in favor of BBC.
The tribe appealed to the Tribal Supreme Court and was granted a new trial. The Tribal Supreme Court appointed Special Judge B.J. Jones, who presides in Sisseton/Wahpeton Tribal Court, to hear the case. On October 24, Jones ruled in favor of the tribe and ordered BBC Entertainment to pay the tribe us$ 527,000, including interest.
Colombe said last fall that Jones’ ruling was politically motivated, coming on the eve of his run for tribal vice president. He lost his bid for vice president to another former tribal president, William "Willie" Kindle.
In November, BBC Entertainment asked for a new trial, but the court denied the request in December, according to Hanna. After the December ruling, BBC had 30 days to file a notice of appeal to the Tribal Supreme Court. "That time came and went without filing a notice of appeal," Hanna said.
As a result, BBC cannot appeal to federal court because, under the federal Indian Gaming Act and the management contract, it must first exhaust all tribal court remedies, Hanna said. The failure to appeal the December ruling means BBC did not exhaust all its tribal court remedies, he said. "The next step is the tribe will try to recover the money," Hanna said.
Colombe did not return phone messages left by the Journal. In a news release last November, he said Jones had disregarded five years of casino audits conducted by Rosebud Sioux Tribal auditors. According to the release, the audits stated that "BBC was not overpaid and in fact had never received the 35 percent net profits due them under the National Indian Gaming Commission approved contract."
Colombe contended that Jones used an improper accounting system to determine his findings. The tribe now manages the casino.