- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe has filed a federal lawsuit claiming racial discrimination is behind a decision by the city of Snoqualmie, its mayor and council to end utility services for the tribe’s casino.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle seeks an injunction and claims that without sewer services, the casino would have to close and that would threaten the tribe’s ability to offer governmental programs and services.

The casino hosts about 6,000 visitors each day and the tribe pays almost $500,000 each year for sewer services, the lawsuit said. The City Council recently decided to end its agreement to provide sewer utility services. The lawsuit claims the city is trying to “choke out the tribe on the basis of race.”

“The tribe filed this action to protect its economic engine and to prevent a shut down that would harm tribal members and the lives of the 1,200 employees who work at the casino,” the tribe’s lawyer, Rob Roy Smith said in an email.

Tribal members have evidence of “racial intent,” Smith said, noting the city has “relentlessly campaigned against the tribe on cultural resource issues” and “singled the tribe out for unfair treatment.”

The lawsuit asks the judge to issue an injunction to prevent the city from taking any steps to terminate or suspend sewer services.

Messages left with Bob Sterbank and Michael Walter, the lawyers listed as representing the city in the case, were not immediately returned.

The utility services agreement was set up in 2004 and the tribe has paid every bill on time since the casino opened in 2008, Smith said.

In October, the city informed the tribe that it intends to terminate sewer services to the casino by next November, the complaint said.

Tribal officials said they tried to negotiate an agreement but the city sent a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs stating it wanted to end the business relationship with the tribe.

“The city has also stated, in writing, that they will oppose the tribe’s efforts to connect to another municipality’s sewer system or to develop the tribe’s own wastewater treatment facility,” Smith said.

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Follow Martha Bellisle at https://twitter.com/marthabellisle

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