National Indian Gaming Commission announces general counsel

Jonodev O. Chaudhuri, the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission announces the 2014 tribal casino revenues at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on July 23, 2015. Photo by Andrew Bahl for Indianz.Com

The National Indian Gaming Commission named a new general counsel last week, just five months after Chairman Jonodev Chaudhuri selected someone else for the job.

Michael Hoenig, who is non-Indian, will serve as the agency's top attorney. He's worked at the NIGC, which oversees the regulation of $28.5 billion tribal casino industry, for nine years.

"Michael has proven time and again to be a tremendous asset to the NIGC,” Chaudhuri said in a press release. “Throughout his service to the commission, Michael has shown his dedication to the agency’s mission of upholding the integrity of Indian gaming and he has been a steadfast source of legal expertise. I am confident in his abilities to take on the responsibilities to both the Office of General Counsel and to the agency as a whole.”

Hoenig succeeds Eric Shepard, who was named general counsel in April after serving in that role in an acting capacity since September 2012. Shepard has since left the NIGC and is now in charge of the Division of Indian Affairs for the Office of the Solicitor at the Interior Department.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires the chairman of the NIGC to appoint a general counsel. But the Bush administration never hired a permanent person for the position and the role was held by Penny Coleman, a non-Indian, for more than 10 years.

After President Barack Obama came on board and Tracie Stevens was confirmed as chair of the NIGC, she hired Larry Roberts, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, as general counsel in 2010. He was the first Indian to serve in the post since the Clinton era but he left in 2012 to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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