Indians Attack Boss Wilhelm for Conflicts of Interest

Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int’l Union president John W. Wilhelm was singled out for unethical behavior by American Indians at a Jan. 7 hearing of the Nat. Gaming Impact Study Commission (NGISC) in Seattle. Indians, led by S. Timothy Wapato of the Nat. Indian Gaming Ass’n, blasted Wilhelm for his unseemly conflict-of-interest: being a NGISC Commissioner and at the same time the top boss of a union that is sure to benefit from any new restrictions or regulations on Indian gaming that come out of the impending NGISC report to Congress.

Wapato demanded Wilhelm disqualify himself from the NGISC due to his “personal agenda.” Wapato pointed to HERE’s active role in opposing Cal.’s Prop 5 that was favorable to Indian gaming. Wilhelm’s union filed an amicus brief with anti-Prop 5 forces in litigation to test the proposition’s constitutionality. Jerry Levine, attorney representing various tribes, said Wilhelm was not fit to sit as a Commissioner. Congress funded a study and formed the NGISC to look at the growth of gaming across the nation. New laws could substantially hurt Indian interests and aide corrupt unions. “I have great concern that the report will be skewed, based on statements coming out of the commission,” Wapato said. [Indian Country Today 1/18/99]