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Dec 19, 2012 8:41 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Ousted Tribal Leaders Defend Their Moves As Protecting Tribe

Dec 19, 2012 12:30 PM

Despite numerous attempts over the past several weeks to obtain comment, the Tribal Trustees have thus far refused to answer questions or offer a response to the allegations.

Vote’s Legality Questioned

The removed officials and their supporters, including what appears to be a broad majority of the 13 elected members of the Tribal Council, have repeatedly challenged the steps taken against the men, with tribal petitions, a chain of written appeals to the U.S. Department of the Interior and vociferous defense to anyone who will listen in person.

The Tribal Council has issued a statement calling the prosecution of the officials and the vote taken in October “invalid and non-binding” because neither purportedly conformed to long-standing tribal protocols. The council called for a federal mediator to be appointed to review the case against the men and issue an assessment to the tribe.

The tribe does not currently have a recall or impeachment process for elected officials. A Code of Conduct adopted in 2006 allows for an elected official to be removed from office “following due process,” including a fact-finding investigation of the dealings of an accused official or officials by a panel of other elected officials.

A group of five former Tribal Trustees were empaneled in August by Mr. King to conduct an investigation of the accusations.

But the ousted officials claim they were not afforded the due process required because they did not get to defend themselves in person to the committee. The men do acknowledge that they were ultimately asked to speak with the committee, but that the request came just four days before the panel submitted its findings and at a time when the men were each unable to appear.

“I was invited to speak to them at 9:40 p.m. on a Friday,” Mr. Randall recalled. “Friday night. They issued the report that Tuesday. That’s not due process. They didn’t want to talk to us—that was just lip service. It was already over.”

The committee report accuses the four officials of a long list of missteps and malfeasance that add up to “willful neglect of duty” and fraud. The charges start with a list of supposed failures—“children’s park not repaired,” “no day care,” and “poor administration of the Nation’s health facility”—by the two Trustees, whose terms were just three months old. The list then delves into three pages of detailed charges relating to the real estate deals all five men had been ostensibly working on, accusing them of stepping outside of their authority, not representing the tribe faithfully, disparaging other tribal officials, placing personal interests ahead of those of the tribe, and outright corruption.

“We were doing nothing any differently than we’d done before on any of the sites we’d worked on. There was nothing being intentionally kept from the tribe—it was all what we were supposed to be doing in our roles as trustees or gaming authority,” Mr. Brown said.

“But Malik says we’re going against the contract,” Mr. Gumbs interjected. “And they go tell everybody we’re going against the contract [with Gateway]. We asked specifically what the contract said so that we didn’t go against the contract on anything we were doing.”

When the investigative committee’s report was disseminated to the entire tribe, the men say it was Mr. King who stepped outside his authority as a single member of the Trustees, calling a special tribal meeting, at which members of the tribe moved for a vote of no confidence. That meeting should not have been held without a majority vote of the three sitting Tribal Trustees, they say.

The vote, held on October 23, was damning: the votes condemning all five men were overwhelming, more than five-to-one to remove them in most cases.

The petition circulated this week, along with the motions to dissolve the government, pulls no punches in pointing to what its authors apparently see as being behind the movement against the men. “In conclusion, the majority of the Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Council believe these unfortunate events have been orchestrated to oust those perceived as obstructionist to … Mike Malik and Gateway Casino Resorts’ gaming plan for the Nation,” it reads.

Fractured Leadership

The campaign to remove Mr. Gumbs, Mr. Wright, Mr. Hamp and Mr. Brown from office appears to have begun, at least publicly, in early July—with the appearance of the stolen emails and a letter sent by attorneys for Mr. Malik to the investment firm the officials had been working with. But the men say it likely had been building at least since Mr. Gumbs and Mr. Wright were returned to the Tribal Trustees board in April’s election.

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Good evening Lance, You and I have casually meet several times I have meet Randy and some of the Bess family as well. I have been watching this all unfold. I believe you are all trying your best to manage a difficult situation.

I must ask, why would you want to develop a Casino so far from home. It seems to me I read somewhere in the federal regulations that they require you stay within 25 miles of the reservation. It also seems to me that if you locate a new resort casino out east... ...more
Dec 24, 12 8:17 PM appended by joe hampton
In every revolution there is one man with a vision. J.T.K.
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Dec 21, 12 8:17 PM