Thursday, December 15, 2011

How Lance Boldrey Turned a Stint in the Governor's Office Into a 10+ Year Multi-Million Dollar Engagement with Detroit Casino Syndicators

Blogger's Note: We've received several inquiries about Michigan gaming attorney R. Lance Boldrey and note an increase in the number of people visiting as part of browser searches of Boldrey's name so we're republishing this 1.08.2007 post originally titled "Aide negotiated '11th Hour' Port Huron casino deal for Gov. Engler; then joined private practice, retained by those who got the deal"

On Sunday, January 7th, the Port Huron Times Herald published an editorial, "Feds must come to aid of Port Huron," suggesting that a Bay Mills Indian Casino planned for that community might still be alive. At the very least, the following raises ethical questions and creates curious circumstances surrounding the proposed casino, deserving of investigation and disclosure.

Lance Boldrey joined the staff of Michigan Governor John Engler sometime in 1999 as Deputy Legal Counsel and chief negotiator for Indian Affairs matters in the Governor's third and final term.

Throughout most of Engler’s 12 years as Governor,
Engler steadfastly opposed the expansion of Indian gaming... BUT in the final months, with Boldrey helming negotiations, something changed.

In September 2002, roughly three months before Engler's term would expire, the Governor was compelled to sign a
land claims settlement agreement Boldrey and others had negotiated the month before with the Bay Mills Indian Community. The agreement would pave the way for a third Bay Mills Indian Community casino to be developed in the urban border town of Port Huron, 350 miles away from its Brimley, MI reservation.

On December 20, 2002, with less than two weeks remaining on his term, Gov. Engler also signed a new
Tax Agreement with the Bay Mills Indian Community covering (or protecting) the Tribe, its proposed Port Huron casino and other commercial and trust properties. Presumably Boldrey played a lead role in those negtotiations as well.

Oddly enough, the so-called "land claims" made by the Bay Mills Tribe in 1996 (the threat driving any need for a Settlement Agreement at all) were never verified. Both state and federal courts tossed out the claims, at that time, on administrative grounds. This raises question about the rushed 11th hour change of policy by Engler and the need for any Settlement Agreement at all. Did the state trade a casino for land claims that weren't legitimate afterall? Were the circumstances surrounding the Settlement Agreement just a theatrical smokescreen to rationalize approval for a third Bay Mills Tribal casino in Port Huron?

But Engler knew the land claims weren't valid and that they were being used to leverage a casino because in a 1999 opinion letter published by the Record Eagle intended to set the record straight,
Engler wrote:

"... I find it remarkable that Congressman Stupak would step in at this late date and join with the Bay Mills Tribe in using the Charlotte Beach homeowners as political pawns. Make no mistake about it - Congressman Stupak's proposal is solely about trying to give the Bay Mills Tribe an otherwise illegal casino..."

"... the state of Michigan has stood by these properly owners since day one, defended them in court, and won the dismissal of the Bay Mills lawsuit against the Charlotte Beach owners. I have no doubt that this dismissal will hold up on appeal ..."
R. Lance Boldrey parlayed stint in Governor's
Office into 10+ year million dollar engagement
Within weeks of Engler approving the the Settlement Agreement, Boldrey flew to Washington D.C. and eagerly represented Governor Engler before a U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. Backers of the Bay Mills casino were attempting to railroad congressional approvals in the closing days of the 107th Congress needed to affect terms of the Engler negotiated Agreements.

Boldrey's eagerness might partially be explained in part by the fact that in
July 2002 the White House announced the President’s intention to nominate Boldrey to serve as a trustee of the Udall Foundation. The nomination wasn't sent to the Senate until January 2003 and Boldrey was confirmed in April 2003. During that 6-9 month period it was certainly in Boldrey’s interest to increase his profile in Washington D.C and exploit the credentials he’d developed during the short time he worked as Gov. Engler’s Indian Affairs agent. 

With the help of people like Boldrey, first term Senator
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) had drafted and introduced S. 2986 as a companion to the Settlement Agreement on September 20, 2002. Less than two weeks after its introduction (usually this takes months, sometimes even more than a year), the bill was scheduled to be heard before the full Senate Indian Affairs Committee. At the October 10, 2002 hearing, as the Governor's representative, Boldrey sat beside the Bay Mills Community's elected Council President John Lufkins and together they urged the committee’s swift endorsement. It wasn't to be; Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), a leading Democrat and member of the Committee stood in their way.

Time was ticking on the Engler Administration and on the friday before the 2002 Christmas holiday, with less than 5-6 full business days left on the calendar,
Governor Engler also signed a new Tax Agreement with the Bay Mills Tribe. Among other protections for the Tribe and its members, the Agreement exempted (page 9) hotel rooms, restaurant food and beverages sold as part of any casino and its adjoining resort properties from lodging taxes, sales taxes and use taxes.

Engler’s 12 year administraton came to an end on January 1, 2003 leaving Boldrey unemployed. But within weeks, Boldrey announced he was returning to private practice. He had decided to join the Lansing office of the Dykema Gossett law firm and was tasked with starting up an Indian Law Practice for the firm. A longtime Engler friend, confidant and political agent Richard D. McLellan was a senior partner in the Dykema office. The Dykema law firm had already been handling legal business matters for the MotorCity commercial casino partnership in Detroit. Ilitch, Malik and others who were founders of MotorCity Casino have been the driving force behind the third Bay Mills casino project for a decade or more.

So, Boldrey joined Dykema and before long, the Bay Mills Indian Community, its casino backers like Marian Ilitch and Michael Malik, and others whom previously had to negotiate across the table from Boldrey in his role as the Governor’s point man had retained Dykema Gossett (Boldrey & McLellan) to work on Indian law and gaming matters at prime corporate law firm rates. Boldrey's role now was to protect and advocate for their interests going forward.

What or who compelled the Governor's dramatic change of direction in the last months and days of his administration? Why this proposal instead of some other? Five years ago, those questions were swept under the carpet.

When had Boldrey decided to return to private practice? When did he open talks with Dykema? What role did Richard McLellan play in recruiting Boldrey? What involvement had McLellan had with the 11th hour negotiations with various tribes including Bay Mills? When did Boldrey's future clients learn of his career move? When did they first discuss a future working together? What relationships did he have with "Charlotte Beach" area land owners then or now? Who did he negotiate against as the Governor's representatives that paid him or Dykema after he joined Dykema?

Certainly an attorney whose credits included pulling-off a deal like this would be in high demand and command the highest of fees.

What relationships if any did Boldrey/McLellan have with attorneys Anthony Andary, Robert Golden?

With all of the other matters deserving greater urgency, why was there such a last minute push five years ago for a Settlement Agreement with Bay Mills Indians when they've yet to prove their land claims valid?

What's really at play in the "Charlotte Beach" (also referred to as "Hay Lake" by Bay Mills Tribal Council President) area referenced in the unverified land claims? The Hay Lake/Charlotte Beach locations are near impossible to find on maps in Chippewa County -- Atlas, Google, USGS, etc. or via governmental agency resources. It's only in old plat maps that one will find a reference to the "Charlotte Beach subdivision" east of the Barbeau community on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

"Charlotte Beach" is a rather obscure place, not among those included in the USGS master place names data base nor referenced in resources available via the Department of Natural Resources at; it is not noted as a town or community or any other place of significance in Michigan; other respective state and federal sources simply don't designate the 110- acre place. There are no obvious references noted by non-profit environmental or natural resource protection groups either. In fact, the only modern public documentation that references a place called "Charlotte Beach" in Michigan are documents related to the Bay Mills land claims. It is doubtful Governor Engler or anyone else for that matter had visited Charlotte Beach, Michigan to see for themselves what was going on there. One must wonder what sort of investigation was done to see who really owns land there or who has bought land since.

It just doesn't add up: a complete and documented reversal of a Governor's long held public policy stance opposing the expansion of gaming; no validated land claims, yet a signed Land Claims Settlement Agreement; two existing casinos already, just not in prime urban locations; an 11th hour Tax Agrement too; 110 acres of land in "Charlotte Beach," an area not designated on maps or by any public agencies or non-profit groups as significant or sensitive; and a lead negotiator who was later engaged by the very parties he once negotiated against. Before Congress or any other elected officials or public agencies take any further action, a complete investigation and full disclosures are warranted.

And what role or connections has political consultant Tom Shields (also an Engler insider, political advisor to Rep. Candice Miller, and longtime spin doctor to Mike & Marian Ilitch) played in these schemes?

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