According to the Associated Press (AP) a federal judge, for now, is siding with the City of Snoqualmie “in a dispute over utility services at the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe’s casino.”
The Tribe filed a lawsuit against the city last year over Snoqualmie’s move to discontinue sewer services to the casino beginning this November. In the lawsuit the Tribe alleged that decision was racially motivated and violated federal law.
According to a City of Snoqualmie press release, on Monday, May 16, 2016 Judge James L. Robart granted the city’s motion to dismiss the Tribe’s lawsuit against Snoqualmie Mayor Matthew R. Larson, City Council members and senior City staff, claiming that the city intentionally discriminated against the Tribe on the basis of race.
The lawsuit cited a letter the City wrote in October 2015, in which the city agreed to the Tribe’s request for a one-year extension of a sewer services agreement for the Snoqualmie Casino, but also indicated that the City would not work toward a further extension due to the Tribe’s refusal to meet with the city or negotiate future sewer service terms.
Per the press release:
“In granting the City’s motion, Judge Robart outlined the well-established federal law holding that a race discrimination lawsuit can be based only upon purposeful or intentional race discrimination, and not just a party’s dissatisfaction with contract terms.
In rejecting each of the Tribe’s allegations, Judge Robart state, “The Tribe plausibly pleads that the City has taken a tough negotiating stance with the Tribe. Nevertheless…the court cannot reasonably infer that the City is intentionally discriminating against the Tribe on the basis of race.”
Tribe Plans to Amend Lawsuit
According to the Associated Press, a Snoqualmie Tribe lawyer said the tribe plans to amend its complaint to add more evidence of discrimination. The Tribe also has pending claims under state law pertaining to what it considers they city’s unreasonable refusal to provide sewer service to their busy casino, which they state is the largest employer in the Snoqualmie Valley.
Mayor’s Strong Response
Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson said via press release, “This lawsuit was never about discrimination. The City Council, the Administration, and our staff have always been committed to providing cost-effective utility services – fairly and without regard to race. The City wasn’t able to negotiate a long-term sewer contract extension when the other party (the Tribe) was refusing to meet or negotiate, so it was only common sense for us to have said that ‘no negotiation means no contract means no future services.’ That was not discrimination, and we are pleased that the court recognized this.”
Larson added, “Now that Judge Robart has rejected the Tribe’s discrimination claims, I’m hopeful the Tribe is now ready to get to the details of its casino, hotel, conference center and retail expansion plans, and the kind and amount of sewer service they need. I encourage the Tribe’s leadership to recognize that it makes more sense to do this in person rather than in a court room.”