The Klamath Tribes are opposing a planned Dollar General store in Chiloquin due to litigation between the company and a tribe in Mississippi, as well as the store’s potential economic impact.
In a letter sent to city officials Friday, Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry said Dollar General has displayed a set of values that do not conform with the Chiloquin community.
The foremost reason behind their opposition was an ongoing lawsuit between Dollar General and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which is currently waiting for a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dollar General was leasing a store on Choctaw land in 2003 and its agreement said any legal matter originating from the lease would be dealt with in tribal court. During that time, Dollar General was sued in tribal court because its manager at the store allegedly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old male employee.
Dollar General in turn sued the tribe in federal court and said the Choctaws did not have jurisdiction over non-tribal members. The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Dec. 6, 2015, and has yet to issue a ruling.
“A company with integrity would not agree to jurisdiction in a lease and then disregard its legal agreement and spend over a decade litigating the issue,” wrote Gentry. “Rather, the responsible course of action for a good corporate citizen would be to show up in court and respond to the claim.”
Gentry also said having a store like Dollar General in Chiloquin could provide such stiff competition for local businesses they may be forced to close.
He said Dollar General, as a nation-wide company with more than 12,000 stores, has the buying power to offer significant discounts that local shops may not be able to keep up with.
“The store would compete for community members’ limited discretionary income,” said Gentry.
“In the short-term, many community members would appreciate a slight decrease in product cost,” he continued. “However, the Klamath Tribes does not want to see our local retail and restaurant businesses shuttered and our neighbors unemployed because they cannot compete, as has happened in other rural locations in Oregon.”
He also said money spent at the store would not necessarily circulate back into the community but would likely be reinvested at the corporate level, drawing funds away from the Chiloquin economy.
For these reasons the Klamath Tribes urged the Chiloquin City Council to oppose the store and block any variances needed for the location to be established.
Dollar General is currently seeking an amendment to the city’s Urban Grown Boundary, which would need to be approved by Klamath County, as well as a letter from the city guaranteeing the availability of utilities if the boundary amendment was approved.
City officials declined to approve the letter Monday in favor of first gauging public opinion about the store, in light of the concerns cited by the Klamath Tribes. Questionnaires asking for approval or disapproval of Dollar General are expected to be mailed with sewer bills this week.
Representatives of Dollar General did not return requests for comment by press time.