- Legal States
Julie Moraine January 4, 2022 3 min read
West Lakeland Lawsuit Alleges Future Tribal Casino Interest
A lawsuit in Minnesota seeks the removal of current supervisors from office due to secret negotiations for a tribal casino and multiple violations of data and the open public meetings laws, Twin Cities reported.
The Casino Involvement
The lawsuit by Citizens Opposed to Municipal Water, Inc., a nonprofit created by Steve Norenberg, filed in Washington County District Court claims the three West Lakeland Township supervisors, Dan Kyllo, Dave Schultz and Marian Appelt, secretly endorsed a citywide water system to facilitate the building of a future tribal casino.
The complaint states that supervisors met secretly in February and March 2020 to discuss the controversial water system project and the future casino in violation of multiple open meeting laws.
Though there was no direct proof of a conversation between the township supervisors and the Prairie Island Indian Community (PIIC), the tribe which bought 111 acres of land at Interstate 94 and Manning Avenue for economic development, the March meeting minutes suggested supervisors might have been in contact with the tribal leaders.
The PIIC operates the Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Red Wing and since the purchase of the land in 2016, the tribe has been seeking to attain trust status for the land in what many West Lakelanders see as the first step to build a casino since federally recognized tribal land is exempt from local regulations limiting gambling.
The Water System
The controversial $154 million water system project was proposed by state agencies in 2020 as a solution to the issue of finding traces of chemicals produced by 3M that were initially discovered in the drinking water in 2004. Financing of the project would come from the $850 million of compensation paid by the manufacturer according to the 2018 settlement of an environmental damage lawsuit.
As the town has no central water system, the project proposed to build a water tower, two municipal wells, and 41 miles of water mains to connect all home private wells, but factors such as the degree of scattering between different homes, the requirement to rebuild most of the roads since the water mains would run under them, and the refusal of half of the residents to connect their wells to the system, weighed against the idea.
In August 2021, state officials announced an alternative plan that would see the water being cleared through the installation of filters in individual homes, spending $700 million on wells, water mains, and filtering stations in 14 area cities.
Though denying all allegations, the response filed by the township did not explain how the board decided to endorse the water system project.
The lawsuit, which is a continuation of a lawsuit filed in September 2021, also asks the court to order a referendum for a board expansion after the removal of all three current supervisors. It also asks the court to order all unspecified costs and attorney fees be covered by the township.