The Journal obtained a copy of the resignation letter, written by Randall Fine of the Fine Group, which was hired last year for Buffalo Thunder operations as part of a plan to improve the casino’s finances after it defaulted on payments in 2009 toward its $245 million bond.
Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. George Rivera said Thursday that Fine Point Group was fired by Buffalo Thunder, and “there’s no factual information to what he (Fine) is saying” in the March 10 letter.
“He became a disgruntled employee and thought he’d try to take down the corporation,” Rivera said. Rivera would not address specific issues raised in Fine’s letter because of potential litigation in the matter.
In the letter, Fine says he initially agreed to run Buffalo Thunder as though he were its CEO. But the casino, he writes, took numerous actions that “diminished” his authorities and responsibilities, including:
♦ Paying employee bonuses without Fine’s approval, including one bonus to an employee after he stopped working there;
♦ Ordering the Pojoaque Pueblo tribal police chief to investigate Fine after he began looking into bonus payments;
♦ Installing art with company resources without getting Fine’s approval, then hiring a curator, also without approval from Fine;
♦ Using casino resources for items unrelated to Buffalo Thunder, including marketing for the Pojoaque Pueblo, art installation and “non-economic advertisement purchases referred to as ‘political buys;'”
♦ Requisitioning complimentary entertainment tickets worth about $5,000 per show “for personal and/or Pueblo use” and not reimbursing the company;
♦ Giving the former CEO’s office to another tribal employee, rather than Fine;
♦ “Allowing the former CEO to distribute my personal cellular telephone number to customers to make harassing calls without repercussion.”
So far as the finances go, Rivera said Buffalo Thunder’s budget is too closely regulated for money to be misspent.
“All the pueblo’s assets are audited to the finest point, and there’s never been an issue with any of that,” he said.
Last month, Fine Point issued a news release saying it has quit working for Buffalo Thunder because of business practices a the casino resort the firm’s executives “were not ethically comfortable with.” Rivera said then that Fine Point had been “terminated” by the casino and was just trying to drum up a media controversy.
Buffalo Thunder opened its lavish $275 million resort and casino in 2008, just as the economic recession hit.
A new casino management company, Full House Resort, recently agreed to a three-year consulting agreement with Buffalo Thunder. Rivera said they’ll begin working there once the contract is approved by the New Mexico State Gaming Commission and the National Indian Gaming Commission.