Tensions rise between developer and tribe at the Grand Canyon Skywalk

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, AZ - A legal dispute over profits has erupted between the Grand Canyon Skywalk and the Hualapai Tribal Council.

Las Vegas businessman David Jin is suing the tribe over an alleged breach of contract that he says has occurred since Jin developed and built the $30 million structure.

The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a u-shaped walkway that extends 70 feet beyond the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, allowing tourists to stand 4,000 feet above the canyon's floor.

According to a news release from a public relations firm hired by Jin, an agreement with the Hualapai Tribe called for him to manage the Skywalk for 25 years and split the profits with the tribe.

Hualapai spokesman Dave Cieslak tells ABC15 Jin signed a contract with the tribe and has so far not lived up to his promises.

"Mr. Jin agreed to complete certain critical elements of the Skywalk -- including water, sewer and electricity, and the first floor of the visitors center. After four years, do you know what it looks like? An empty shell with exposed wiring that remains under construction," Cieslak said.

Jin's lawyers say that Jin has only received a small fraction of the profits generated by the tourist attraction. They allege that the majority of management fees called for in the contract have remained unpaid.

Cieslak says the tribe is extremely disappointed in Jin's actions and failure to follow through with his contractual obligations.

"We have spent years negotiating with Jin, but he refuses to make even basic concessions and complete the work he promised. Now he has filed not one, but two lawsuits," Cieslak explained. "The Tribe has simply had enough. Our people – and tourists from across the globe – deserve better."

Jin spokesperson Aimee Romero responded to that claim, saying, "Not only has the Tribal Council not negotiated with Jin for years as they claim, they are yet again refusing to attend tomorrow's scheduled arbitration hearing. Mr. Jin has repeatedly asked the Council for arbitration and to open its management books so that a transparent and accurate accounting can be done, but the Council has refused every request."

As a reaction to the dispute, Jin said via a news release that the Tribal Council attempted to pass an eminent domain ordinance on April 4 that would give the tribe full rights to take over operations of the Skywalk from him.

"Through the eminent domain process, the tribe is ready and more than willing to pay Mr. Jin fair market value for his financial commitment," Cieslak tells ABC15. "It's sad that Mr. Jin failed to meet the most basic terms of this contract, but the Council has to protect its interests and the Hualapai people."

Romero responded, "Mr. Jin financed every dime of the nearly $30 million to design and build the Skywalk, and did not receive his promised management fees in return. The Tribal Council is now pointing to their own failure to run utilities to their own building as an excuse to take Jin's management contract and keep his money."

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