Another round of play in card room license dispute

Rodney Martin

Tule River Tribe Administrator Rodney Martin is striking back against the most recent onslaught of allegations surrounding the purchase of a card room license.

“I was fully expecting to hear who killed JFK,” Martin said today about the accusing tone of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. “It’s unfortunate that people choose to engage in emotionally charged oversimplifications.”

At least three people addressed the City Council alleging Mayor Pro-tem Felipe Martinez engaged in unethical behavior when he received payment from David Gonzales for services related to the sale of a card room license to the Tule River Indian Tribe.

Martin said the Tule River Tribe intends to pursue more business opportunities than it ever has and that it could make some in the community uncomfortable.

The acquisition of the card room license itself has taken the tribe into unchartered territory, Martin said.

The state regulates local card rooms under guidelines established for Class 2 gambling licenses, while tribal gambling is governed by Class 3 licensing procedures. Martin said a major hurdle for any tribe looking to take on a Class 2 license is a state regulation prohibiting any link to a Class 3 gambling enterprise such as Eagle Mountain Casino.

The solution for the tribe was to establish the card room exclusively to generate funds for a non-profit institution.

Once the card room is in operation, according to Martin, all proceeds will go to benefit the future Tule River elementary school, serving grades kindergarten through third. The school, located at the former Porterville Adult School site, currently operates as an after-school study center.

“This has never been done before,” Martin said of a tribe operating a Class 2 card room license. “There’s no precedent. Once this is all done and the precedent has been set I think you are going to see a lot of tribes purchasing card room licenses.”

Martin responded today to claims made by Mary McClure during the public comment portion of TuesdayÂ’s City Council meeting.

In response to McClureÂ’s description of a meeting between herself and the tribeÂ’s financial director, David Liu, in mid-October, Martin said the incident never took place.

“No member of the tribe’s staff initiated discussions or negotiations with Charlie’s Pizza Kitchen,” Martin said. “It’s completely false.”

McClure responded to Martin’s statement, saying tribal staff members have spoken with her about using the large room at Charlie’s for a card room that would accommodate 50 tables — an assertion Martin said is not only untrue but impractical.

“We purchased a license for three card tables,” Martin said. “She made a representation she could work to secure the 50 tables. If you look at the demographics, this area couldn’t sustain 50 tables.”

Martin wouldnÂ’t know about negotiations over CharlieÂ’s, McClure said, because he was never present.

“He must not have talked to anyone,” McClure said. “He’s trying to save face. I don’t lie and he’s still out to lunch.”

Martin said in recent months the tribe has rejected offers for the sale of properties owned by McClure.

“I guarantee you if we had accepted one of her unsolicited proposals, none of this would be happening right now,” he said.

-- Contact Sarah Elizabeth Villicana at 784-5000, Ext. 1045, or svillicana@portervillerecorder.com.

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