A federal judge has ruled that bank accounts belonging to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are to remain frozen until a leadership dispute within the tribes is
The tribes filed a lawsuit a week ago in federal court, claiming that roughly $6.4 million of their funds were illegally frozen by Clinton-based First Bank and Trust Co.
The Concho-based tribes asked the judge to lift the freeze placed on their funds by the bank because they had already bounced checks to employees, vendors and
Federal judge David L. Russell issued his ruling Wednesday, citing the ongoing feud between disputed tribal Gov. Janice Prairie Chief-
A Custer County judge is scheduled to take up the leadership and banking issues June 8 in district court, where the bank filed for the administrative freeze.
“Depending on which group prevails on the dispute over governance, the bank faces potential liability for the payment of money at the request of an unauthorized signator,” Russell's order states. “In light of the ongoing governance issues, about which Plaintiffs have presented no evidence, the Court cannot conclude that Plaintiffs will ultimately prevail in their quest to have the administrative freeze lifted.”
Lisa Liebl, a spokeswoman for the tribes, said tribal leaders “were more disappointed than surprised” by Russell's ruling.
Liebl said tribal employees — numbering 500 or so, not including casino workers — are working a reduced 32-hour workweek because of the frozen funds, and that checks written by the tribe to employees, contractors and vendors already had bounced by the beginning of this week.
Documents submitted by the tribes' attorneys claim that freezing the $6.4 million would disrupt many important social services afforded to its members, including housing assistance and a food voucher program.
Liebl also said emergency medical services, firefighting units, substance abuse programs and other services would likely be scaled back if the funds remain frozen.
“Now, we'll just wait for our court date on June 8. ... That's all we can do at this point,” she said. “We're still locked out of those accounts, those frozen funds, so we have no idea what's happening with all of that.”
Liebl said the tribes' Lucky Star casinos should remain operational with the funds frozen, but said earlier in the week that even that was uncertain.