National Indian Gaming Commission finally gets its third member

From left: Kathryn Isom-Clause, Jonodev Chaudhuri and E. Sequoyah Simermeyer. Photo of Isom-Clause from LinkedIn; Photos of Chaudhuri and Simermeyer from National Indian Gaming Commission

For the first time in a more than three years, the National Indian Gaming Commission is operating with a full slate.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 calls for three people to serve on the agency that regulates the tribal casino industry. But the NIGC had been down to just two members since January 2013 and even dropped to one for a six-month stretch in 2015.

That's all changed with the arrival of Kathryn Isom-Clause, an attorney and member of Taos Pueblo. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell officially appointed her as an associate commissioner on Tuesday following a public comment period that ended last week.

“Kathryn is a highly qualified professional with extensive experience in a wide range of American Indian issues at both the tribal and national levels,” Jewell said in a press release. “Her dedication and expertise will serve the commission well as it works to uphold the highest ethical standards while helping tribes generate economic opportunities for their communities.”

National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Jonodev Chaudhuri hosted Karen Diver, the Native American Affairs advisor to President Barack Obama, at the NIGC's headquarters in Washington, D.C., on February 5, 2016. Photo from Facebook

Jonodev Chaudhuri, a member of the Muscogee Nation, serves as chairman of the NIGC. He was nominated by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the Senate in May 2015.

E. Sequoyah Simermeyer, a member of the Coharie Tribe, came on board as an associate commissioner last November. His appointment ended Chaudhuri's solo streak.

Pursuant to IGRA, the chairman's post is the only one that requires Senate confirmation. Simermeyer and Isom-Clause, on the other hand, only had to be appointed by the Secretary of the Interior Department.

The three members will now be able to select a vice chair, which the NIGC has gone without for three years. According to IGRA, the vice chair will serve as chair in the event the chair is unable to attend a meeting of the commission.

National Indian Gaming Commissioner E. Sequoyah Simermeyer and staff attorney Rea Cisneros in Phoenix, Arizona, in February 2016. Photo from Facebook

Despite lacking a full slate, the NIGC has been able to function normally since January 2013. But only a full commission, or at least a quorum of two members, can decide appeals of fines, closure orders, notices of violations and other enforcement matters.

The last commission decision posted on the NIGC's website was made in May 2015, which was right before the agency saw the departure of Daniel Little.

There were no decisions posted between September 2012 and May 2015. For most of that time, the NIGC only had two members, following the departure of Steffani Cochran in January 2013.

Although the filling out of NIGC comes near the end of the Obama administration, IGRA allows the members to serve three-year terms. Chaudhuri's term, for example, isn't up in early 2018, well into the next presidential administration.

The National Indian Gaming Commission is participating in the National Indian Gaming Association in Phoenix, Arizona, this week. Photo from Facebook

But Chaudhuri, or any of the other members, could still choose to leave after the November election. In the past, though, NIGC members have been known to stick around during transition periods. That helps ensure stability for the agency and the $28.5 billion tribal casino industry. It also gives a new administration more time to bring their own team to the agency.

“I am truly grateful for the opportunity to join the Commission and to be a part of its amazing and dedicated team,” Isom-Clause said on Tuesday. “With the important work ahead of us, I look forward to collaborating with Chairman Chaudhuri and Commissioner Simermeyer as a partner with tribes and tribal regulators to ensure regulatory compliance and protect the integrity of the Indian gaming industry, which is a vital economic development tool for so many tribes.”

Federal Register Notice:
Proposed Appointment to the National Indian Gaming Commission (February 8, 2016)

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