Casino Chief Inspector Fired
The Albuquerque Journal, in an
article by Mike Gallagher on Wednesday, January 12, 2000 published
an account of the firing of former chief inspector Patricia
Miskovich after she reported finding that 34 casino employees had
The Journal article reports, "Patricia Miskovich said she had
reported her findings and, acting on the commission's orders, had
initiated action to terminate the employees when she was fired in
'They just don't want to be regulated,' Miskovich said in an
interview this week.
Many of the employees with criminal records ultimately lost their
gaming licenses, which are issued by the tribal commission, and as
a result lost their casino jobs.
A tribal spokeswoman said the fact the gaming licenses were
revoked shows Sandia is trying to run a professional casino.
Spokeswoman Stephine Poston also disputed Miskovich's charge that
the pueblo didn't want to be regulated.
'Absolutely not,' Poston said Tuesday. "We take our
compliance responsibilities very seriously. We are committed to
upholding our obligation to our guests, Sandia Pueblo and the
Poston said Miskovich was fired for "other internal
reasons." She declined to elaborate, saying it was a
Miskovich, who worked for Sandia for 18 months, said her review of
employee files turned up problems other than criminal records.
The casino, which had net revenues of $57 million in 1997, has
about 800 employees. Miskovich said background investigations had
been completed on about half of them.
She said that in addition to the 34 with felony and misdemeanor
convictions, she found 38 employees had arrests or charges filed
against them that they failed to disclose to the tribe; and more
than 100 had a
history of bad credit.
The tribe's gaming regulations prohibit the hiring of
felons and people convicted of some misdemeanors.
'The federal government in many ways treats Indian casinos like
banks,' Miskovich said. 'Do you want people with financial
problems handling money?'
Miskovich said some of the people with financial background
problems were dealers or worked as cashiers. Miskovich says she
found other problems:
* The casino may have received slot machines illegally and failed
to keep proper records of the transactions;
* The casino sold used slot machines without following federal
laws by selling them without notifying the Tribal Gaming
Commission, or the Department of Justice;
* The casino didn't investigate unusual fluctuations in gaming
income as required by tribal ordinances -- investigations designed
to show whether the casino was being defrauded.
'There was a lot of stuff,' Miskovich said. 'Sometimes it was
simple things like not properly handling keys; not securing the
dice or cards at the gaming tables; not keeping the proper
paperwork on the slot machines.'
Miskovich said audits frequently revealed the casino wasn't
complying with its own procedures.
'It didn't matter what we looked at -- slots, cage and vault,
Miskovich, who has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and
worked as a caseworker at the state prison in Santa Fe, said she
never worried about job security.
She said she was ordered to revoke the licenses by the Tribal
Gaming Commission, which then had second thoughts.
She began to review the license files after a former employee
complained that the commission staff wasn't doing its job.
'I did a random sample of the 400 licenses for which there were
background investigations -- FBI rap sheets, credit reports,'
She said she found about 50 percent of the first 40 files she
reviewed showed there were problems.
'In September we looked at all 400 files," she said. "We
did nothing else.'
On Sept. 28, 1999, the full commission voted to revoke the gaming
licenses of 72 employees -- the 34 employees who had criminal
convictions and 38 who had not disclosed prior criminal charges on
their applications for employment.
On Oct. 5, 1999, Miskovich met with the first 25 employees
individually and explained the reasons their gaming licenses were
'I also explained their rights to a hearing,' she said.
On Oct. 6, 1999, the Sandia lieutenant governor, chief of police,
Human Resources director and general manager entered her office at
approximately 8:30 a.m.
'They asked me where the files were and they gave me a letter
ordering me to halt all license revocations and surrender all
files,' Miskovich said. 'No one would tell me what was going on.'
According to records, the casino general manager and the pueblo's
human resources director then reviewed the files and argued that
the employees shouldn't be fired.
Most of the revocations eventually were upheld.
The 38 employees who had not disclosed prior arrests or criminal
charges were allowed, in some cases, to correct the oversight.
Miskovich was put on administrative leave and fired by the Sandia
Tribal Council on Oct. 22, 1999.
'You know, I never did anything, took any action unless I had the
approval of the tribal gaming commission or the chairman, Patrick
Baca,' Miskovich said.
Baca didn't return a telephone call on Tuesday. His office
referred questions to Poston.
Miskovich, who declined to be photographed for this story, said
she has forwarded her concerns about Sandia to the state Gaming
Control Board and the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Janet Jessup, executive director of the state Gaming Control
Board, said Tuesday she couldn't confirm or deny the board is
investigating Sandia Casino or Miskovich's allegations.
The state board inspected two Indian casinos recently and is
scheduled to inspect Sandia Casino at the end of the month.
A telephone call to the National Indian Gaming Commission was not
There are three levels of oversight for Indian casinos -- a tribal
gaming commission, the state gaming board and the National Indian
Gaming Commission." The Journal didn't mention that there are
only a handful of federal investigators, and that the state does
virtually nothing to regulate tribal gambling.
The article continues, "The state gaming board's regulatory
authority was established by the gaming compacts, which are being
renegotiated. The tribes and the state are in arbitration over the
'This (the allegations) comes at a very difficult time for us,'
Poston said. 'We are in the middle of negotiating new compacts.'
Jessup said Sandia in recent months has been slow in forwarding
employee background investigations to the state board.
'We have sent them a letter about this,' Jessup said.
'We've been having a similar situation with other Indian casinos,'
she said. "Tribes say they are concerned about the
confidentiality of any records they turn over to us.'
Poston confirmed the tribe received a notice of possible violation
from the National Indian Gaming Commission last year over the way
criminal history information was being handled.
'We responded right away with corrective plans,' Poston
As with all of
the revelations of casino corruption that have surfaced because of
internal conflicts in the Sandia, the Santa Anna, the Jicarilla
and the Mescallero casinos, there has been NO information that has
been released about investigations by federal or state
authorities, and all of the alleged wrongdoings have gone