Tribe gives city time 

Mason Morisset, lead counsel for the Eastern Shawnee of Oklahoma, told City Council Friday morning it wasn’t fair to put pressure on them to get the 14-page contract signed by Monday.



City Council will get a 90-day breather on the intergovernmental agreement, and instead will be asked to sign a beefed-up resolution of support for the resort-style casino proposed for the former Republic site.


Mason Morisset, lead counsel for the Eastern Shawnee of Oklahoma, told City Council Friday morning it wasn’t fair to put pressure on them to get the 14-page contract signed by Monday.

“I’m apologizing to him (Law Director Perry Stergios) and to you (City Council),” Morisset said to the seven members of council and Council President Glenn Gamber Friday in Council Chambers in front of a battalion of cameras and microphones. “The deadline was of my making. If I were in Perry’s shoes. I would have done the same thing.”


Morisset said the deadline was real – and that the judge has set a “very busy” brief schedule.

“I wanted to go to him with some signed agreements to show that a settlement is possible,” he explained.


Instead, Morisset said, come Tuesday he will ask the judge for a 90-day extension so Massillon can have more time to make the decision, which some city officials have said “will change the face of Massillon forever.”


“I feel more comfortable with a resolution,” said Councilman Dave McCune, whose e-mail to developer Steve DiPietro sparked the visit by Enyart and Morisset. “This will buy us the time to get more information and get all of our questions answered. This is an important step. It’s been our concern since day one.”


“This is good news for Massillon,” said Councilman Paul Manson. “It gives us some time, but this doesn’t mean we can stop working on this agreement.”


“I appreciate that we got more time,” said Councilman Tony Townsend.


“This will give us an opportunity to get all of our questions answered,” said Councilman Tim Bryan. “Even more valuable is that this give us the time to thoroughly study all the issues.”


Clauses added to the resolution Stergios originally drafted include one which states that council supports a proposed casino, but needs more time to allow further negotiations.


Another states that if gaming is authorized in Ohio, it would be beneficial to the economic development of Massillon to have an agreement in place specifying what the city will receive. Another states Massillon supports the tribe in requesting a delay in the current court schedule.


“I’ve said all along we just needed more time,” Stergios said. “Morisset is a nice straight-forward guy. I think it was just a miscommunication.”


Stergios also said he was impressed with the questions council asked of Enyart and Morisset.


Enyart, who has a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma, told council the tribe would hire most workers locally, that alcohol would not be given away in the casino – just Coke and Pepsi – and that it’s important to him that some of the 2 percent share the city will receive goes to the Massillon School District to make up for the loss in property taxes when and if the Republic site becomes tribal land.

“Education is very important to me,” Enyart said.

The chief also said the tribe will forge strong local ties.

“We will help out in the community,” he said. “There’s not a week that goes by without us helping with some local organization. We also like to do as much business as we can locally.”

That includes the local labor unions, who Enyart said will get first crack at construction, noting: “I’m very much a union guy. My dad worked in the mines.”

Should the lawsuit be settled quickly, the chief said the tribe will move quickly to get the resort built.

“We’ll work 24-7,” he said. “Time is money.”

Enyart was cautious in most of his answers and stated several times: “We don’t want to commit to anything we can’t do.”

That includes the number of jobs which will be created. Enyart noted the figures which have been given are soundly based on other casinos which are already operating.

However, he said no one can guarantee an exact number of jobs because no one knows how to predict with certainty the economy.

As for adult entertainment, Enyart said: “We don’t what that either. It’s not good business.”

But he appeared to be grounded in reality, too.

“We know some crime will increase,” he said. “There’s nothing there now, and we intend to draw a lot of people. Whenever you have people, you have crime. We’ll keep it out of the casino, but some people will try to use the parking lot. We’ll patrol that, too. But the benefits will far outweigh the negatives.”

This page was created April 1, 2006

Copyright ©2006 The Independent