Duluth Files Suit Against Fond Du Lac Band

A federal lawsuit was filed by the city of Duluth because the city contends Fond du Lac Band is dodging its financial responsibilities in a dispute that stretches back years.

The City of Duluth filed a complaint in federal court against the Fond du Lac Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa, alleging the band violated an agreement with the city in expanding its downtown holdings, particularly the Carter Hotel, to forego property taxes and zoning and declare the area “Indian Country.”

The band was given 21 days to answer to the petition. Originally, Duluth approached state court, but the Minnesota Supreme Court found the case belongs in federal court.

At the same time, the city is battling a Fond du Lac reduction in revenue. Up until 2009, the band made $6 million annual payments to the city, but eventually said the payments were justifiable. The National Indian Gaming Commission made a ruling and issued a Notice of Violation to the state.

Gunnar Johnson, the city’s attorney, said the band clearly violated a 1994 agreement, which allows for profit sharing. He said the violation lets the band operate its casino without having to shoulder the financial responsibility.

Band Chairwoman Karen Diver said the band has seen success in combatting the city’s numerous lawsuits filed against the band. She said the band will continue its efforts and encourages city leaders to repair the relationship between the two. As long as the city creates obstacles, the band cannot pursue economic interests in Duluth, she said.

She went on to say Fond du Lac has more power than Duluth in the nation’s capital. Duluth, meanwhile has asked the U.S. Department of the Interior not to act and place Carter Hotel in Fond du Lac’s trust.

Johnson said the city is open to negotiations for a universal settlement.