Greetings my fellow Leech Lake Band Members! It is my honor and privilege to present the Secretary/Treasurer report to you for March 2023, regarding the activities undertaken the last month.
Budget and External Audit Update
As I reported last month, the RBC adopted the FY 23 budget in January and finalized an agreement with new external auditors at the same time. We are now working on getting caught up with our external audits and developing our FY 24 budget. This work is regular and ongoing, but we are slowly and steadily making progress.
In addition to our regular Budget Team meetings, we will also begin to hold monthly financial updates for the RBC, with our administrative and financial staff. The purpose of these meetings will be to hold regular check-ins on the financial health of the tribal government on an on-going basis, including reviewing short-term and long-term financial impacts of decisions and policy changes the RBC is considering. These meetings will also cover revenue and expenditure updates for both our enterprise operations and our governmental functions, including third party billing. These meetings will help keep the RBC on the same page and on track with our spending as we move through the year.
The RBC and the tribal government have been working together on our ongoing response to the opioid and fentanyl epidemic within our community. We are exploring options to assume jurisdiction over civil commitments, which would detain those deemed harmful to others or themselves due to addiction and place them into recovery programs. We are also developing a community navigator program, which would ultimately have a navigator in each community trained and knowledgeable in resources and programs available to help community members in times of crisis.
These are just two items that tribal government has been exploring. We know that we must come together as a community to fully solve this problem. Toward that end, the RBC will be hosting a community meeting on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 at Northern Lights Casino at 5:30 pm. Watch for announcements and information coming soon regarding the event, and please plan to participate if you can.
Amended Gaming Ordinance
On February 16, 2023, the RBC adopted an Amended Gaming Ordinance which has been sent to the National Indian Gaming Commission for approval pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Once approved by the NIGC, the amendments will go into effect.
The primary changes to the Ordinance include the following:
- Establishing the Leech Lake Gaming Regulatory Authority, which will oversee the regulation of gaming activities within the Leech Lake Reservation. This body will replace the current Leech Lake Gaming Commission (which was comprised of Leech Lake RBC members). The Gaming Regulatory Authority will be comprised of the current Regulatory Board, which includes the Compliance Director, Internal Audit Director, Health & Safety Director and Investigations Director.
- Asserting jurisdiction over all Class II gaming within the boundaries of the Reservation, regardless of whether that gaming is conducted by the Leech Lake Band or not. Class II gaming includes bingo, pull tabs, and non-banked card games. This assertion of jurisdiction is contemplated by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, but is something that our prior Gaming Ordinance did not expressly contain. Asserting this jurisdiction will allow Leech Lake to more fully regulate gaming activity within the boundaries of the Reservation.
- Authorizing the licensure of non-tribally owned facilities within the boundaries of the Reservation to conduct certain Class II gaming activities, as long as 60% of the net revenue is income to the Band. More information will be forthcoming regarding the licensing and regulation of Class II gaming at non-tribally owned facilities.
These changes will not go into effect until the NIGC has approved the amended Gaming Ordinance. I will keep our Band members informed on the approval process.
LLBO Strategic Energy Plan
On February 23, 2023, the RBC was updated regarding the Band’s Strategic Energy Plan. This plan includes both regulating energy within the boundaries of the Reservation as well as exploring the feasibility of creating a tribal energy utility. The emphasis of the plan is to deploy sustainable energy solutions such as wind, solar and net-zero options. Work on the plan is on-going and more information will be made available to all Band members as the planning process progresses.
Interim Executive Director
In closing for this month’s report, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Benjamin Benoit, who has served the LLBO for the previous several years in various capacities, most recently as our interim Executive Director. Mr. Benoit’s administrative leadership was instrumental in progress made in the last several months on our FY 23 budget, our third-party billing, and many environmental priorities, including cleaning up the St. Regis Superfund site, navigating the Band’s position regarding the Huber Engineered Woods proposal, and spearheading our relationship with the Chippewa National Forest.
Mr. Benoit will leave his current position at LLBO on March 3, 2023 for an assignment with the Chippewa National Forest as Deer River District Ranger. This is a first-of-its-kind arrangement between a federally recognized tribe and the National Forest Service under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act of 1970. The Agreement allows Mr. Benoit to be stationed at the Deer River District of the Chippewa National Forest for an initial term of two years with anticipated extensions. Under this arrangement, Mr. Benoit will be the first acknowledged LLBO member to be in a management/supervisor role within the Chippewa National Forest.
While I greatly appreciate the leadership and vision Mr. Benoit has brought to the LLBO tribal government, I sincerely wish him the best in this new position with the Chippewa National Forest and I look forward to continue working with him in this new capacity.
To our Leech Lake Band members, it continues to be an honor and a privilege to serve all of you. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to my office.
Leonard “Lenny” Fineday