PRA Documents Provide Glimpse of Howard Hughes Corp. & Wilton Rancheria Casino Transactions With Elk Grove

June 22, 2017 |   Although a citizen lawsuit was filed at Sacramento Superior Court yesterday claiming the City of Elk Grove is withhol...

June 22, 2017 |  

Although a citizen lawsuit was filed at Sacramento Superior Court yesterday claiming the City of Elk Grove is withholding and obscuring several documents from release in violation of the California Public Records Act (PRA), there have been some documents released.

As reported in a story posted yesterday, the documents that have been released to the plaintiffs paint a picture suggesting that despite public denials to the contrary, the City of Elk Grove has worked intimately with the Wilton Rancheria, Howard Hughes Corporation, and Boyd Gaming to help facilitate development of the Wilton Rancheria's proposed $400 million casino on the site of the unfinished Outlet Collection at Elk Grove shopping center.

Below are some of the documents that have been released by the City. Preceding each image is an explanation of the contents. 

Please note, several of the email documents work in reverse order, with the final/latest correspondence of the email string at the top.      

In an email exchange starting on April 7, 2011, Elk Grove City Council Member Steve Detrick corresponded  with Linda Amelia-Chappabitty, who initiated the communication.

Amelia-Chappabitty says she knows several members of the Wilton Rancheria and that while they do not have land in trust, they might be interested in looking in Elk Grove.

"The City of Elk Grove is adjacent and/or near Wilton so that if the City wanted to consider some ideas we could stragagize [sic] on an approach to determine the Tribes [sic] interest."

In his response, Detrick, who was Mayor in 2011, copies in several of the city's then executive staff and tells Amelia-Chappabitty that "The City of Elk Grove is interested in any development in or near Elk Grove."

Amelia-Chappabitty also notes than her spouse, Dennis Chappabitty, "practices Federal Indian Law."  

In this email correspondence, which was days after Gary Davis' was the first directly elected mayor of Elk Grove, a City administrative assistant arranges a meeting. Among those included in the email correspondence attempting to schedule a meeting are Davis, Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli; Elk Grove city manager Laura Gill; and Elk Grove City attorney Jonathan Hobbs. 

Although several of the emails mention Wilton Rancheria representatives, in this batch of released documents no specific person was included or mentioned in the correspondence.  

The meeting in question appears to have been conducted on Monday, December 17, 2012.  

Two days after the meeting on Wednesday, December 19, 2012, former assistant city manager Becky Craig emails Thomas Warden of the Howard Hughes Corporation. It is not known who exactly was in attendance at that meeting.

According to the documents examined, this appears to be the first time that locating the Wilton Rancheria's proposed casino in Elk Grove is specifically mentioned. Craig suggests that Warden contact the Tribes financing partner Boyd Gaming to discuss the unfinished shopping center as a possible site for the casino.

Warden responds saying "That's an excellent idea which I will pursue quickly. I'm friendly with a number of the Boyd execs so who knows."

Craig then forwards the email to former economic development director Randy Starbuck with a keyboard-generated emoji. 

The ordinance shown below was never noticed to the public or voted on by the Council, yet it is recorded on Jan. 9, 2017 releasing the land from the Development Agreement because the city states it no longer has land use authority over the property.  However, the City did have authroity until the transfer of funds was completed and a deed issued and the BIA accepts the land into trust by publication in the Federal Register. 

Michael Black, Acting Asst. Sec. BIA, approves the transfer into trust and the deed is recorded on Jan. 11, 2017.  All this was unknown to the citizens when they testified before the city council during the January 11 Elk Grove City Council meeting.    

The email below shows a cancellation of one of the so-called on-going bi-weekly "coordination meeting" conference calls between the City and the Howard Hughes Corporation. This email was sent three days prior to the the recording shown above.  

What is is noteworthy is that economic development director Darrell Doan distributes information from Howard Hughes Corporation's Vice President of land development, Dave Kautz, seemingly instructing the City on how it should proceed.    

It appears Kautz instructs the Elk Grove City Council to approve the qualified voter referendum at their January 11 meeting, then rescind the development agreement for the shopping center site, which was the subject of the referendum, at their January 25 meeting. By doing this, it would allow Howard Hughes and Boyd Gaming to close on the property prior to January 20 - the end of the Obama administration and the start of the Trump administration, and by rescinding the development agreement at the January 25 meeting, Elk Grove voters were denied the opportunity to weigh in on whats was a defacto referendum on the entire casino project.    

The following emails show that even though he had left office by January of this year, former Mayor Gary Davis was still being included in correspondence with outside parties advocating for the casino. In this case, the outside party was Joshua Wood of business and construction advocacy group, Region Business.

Region Business' Wood continued his communication with city officials. It appears the recipient of this text message was Mayor Steve Ly.

In his response to Wood, Ly, the only city council member known to have contacted the Bureau of Indian Affairs says he was "beaten up" for his call to the agency by the local media and his fellow council member Darren Suen.

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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

All this information is fine and dandy, but I'm a government worker and all I care about is my guaranteed paycheck, pension, and where I'm gonna shop and get food.

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