Spokane officials ask to end silence on casino

Two county leaders ask to get out of neutrality pact

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SPOKANE -- Two Spokane County commissioners are asking the Bureau of Indian Affairs to overturn a contract that blocks the county from taking sides on an American Indian tribe's proposed casino in the Spokane suburb of Airway Heights.

County Commissioners Al French and Todd Mielke voted last week to send the request to BIA Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn.

The resolution asks the BIA if a 2010 contract signed by the county with the Spokane Tribe and the city of Airway Heights is invalid. French wasn't on the commission when that deal was signed. Mielke voted against the contract, which would give the county a cut of the revenue from the not-yet-built casino. In return, the county agreed to remain neutral on the project.

The proposed casino would be built in Airway Heights, not far from the Kalispel Tribe's Northern Quest Resort and Casino.

Many regional and state officials and area business groups have filed comments for or against the tribe's application.

"The record for this application is not complete," French said. "There are no comments from the county, the largest local jurisdiction affected by the proposal."

The 2010 neutrality deal was approved by former Commissioner Bonnie Mager and current Commissioner Mark Richard.

French has been critical of Mager for leading that effort and then working on behalf of the casino proposal after she left office.

Richard has said he supported the 2010 deal because of the Spokanes' need for economic development.

He was not present when Mielke and French approved the BIA letter. "If I had been there, I would have voted against it," he said.