Sauk County has filed a lawsuit against a federal agency to get information on a possible land deal that would benefit a local tribe.
County officials accuse the US Department of the Interior of withholding access to public records. The county wants to know what the Ho Chunk is planning to do with 600 acres the tribe wants to put in a land trust. If the trust status is approved, the Ho Chunk would not have to pay property taxes on those acres. Right now, Sauk County collects about $700,000 in property taxes from that land every year.
Sauk County Board Chair Marty Krueger says Ho Chunk President John Greendeer hasn’t shared a lot of details. He says the documents would help the board to evaluate the tribe's plans, “In order for us in favor of something, or against something, we have to know what’s being presented. So far there’s only rumor or gossip out there on what their intentions are.”
The intention, according to Greendeer, is to create jobs. As for specifics, Greendeer says he's keeping them close to his chest for now.
“Historically, Sauk County has run opposition to our applications for different reasons with the most recent kind of the centerpiece of today is the FOIA request, or Freedom of Information Act the Sauk County board has sought,” he says.
Several attempts to contact The U.S. Department of the Interior for comment were unsuccessful.
The Ho Chunk isn’t the only Wisconsin tribe to have run into problems when trying to put land into trust. In the 1980s, the Menominee and Stockbridge tribes wanted to put Shawano County land into a trust. A local township tried to stop the action, but the tribes prevailed.