Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman Sworn in For Fifth Term

Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman Sworn in For Fifth Term

Taylor Martinez

Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe was sworn in Tuesday for his fifth consecutive term at the helm of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Tribal Council, along with two other incumbent council members.

Grubbe, along with Jessica Norte and Anthony W. Purnel, were reelected on March 17, the chairman to a two-year term and the council members to one- year terms.

Meanwhile, the tribe remains under a reservation-wide state of emergency declared on March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic Its casinos, golf resort and hiking trials are shuttered until April 12, including the Agua Caliente Casino Rancho Mirage, Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs, Indian Canyons Golf Resort.

Since April 1, employees have been getting paid through their vacation time.

The move allows workers to continue to receive health benefits through April 30, the tribe previously announced, although it remains unclear whether layoffs could follow if the casino closures are extended, or how or if tribal employees without vacation time are being compensated during the state of emergency.

Agua Caliente officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The tribe’s decision to shutter its two casinos was a reversal of its previous stance.

Unlike other neighboring tribes in Southern California, Agua Caliente initially kept its casinos open amid the COVID-19 outbreak, announcing beefed up cleaning measures, including increased hand sanitizer stations and “clean carts,” would be added to day-to-day operations.

Days later the tribe changed course and shuttered its facilities after declaring a state of emergency.

The operational shutdown came as the tribe had several developments underway across the Coachella Valley, including a 10,000-seat arena slated for downtown Palm Springs. A February groundbreaking date was abruptly postponed due to “extenuating circumstances,” the tribe said at the time. No future start date has been released.

Construction was underweay on the tribe’s third casino in Cathedral City, along with the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum nearing completion in Palm Springs.