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Aug 8, 2012 11:20 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tribe Suspends Four Officials, Including Two Tribal Trustees

Aug 9, 2012 9:11 AM

The internal strife that has wracked the Shinnecock Indian Nation in recent months reached new heights last week as tribal members voted to suspend two of the nation’s tribal trustees, Lance Gumbs and Gordell Wright, and two unnamed members of its Gaming Authority, the internal agency assigned with directing the tribe’s efforts to develop a casino on Long Island.

The four men were suspended from their official roles by a show of hands among the approximately 100 tribe members who attended a pair of public meetings. There are approximately 500 Shinnecocks living on the tribal reservation just outside Southampton Village.

Tribal Trustee Chairman Randy King, the only one of the three Tribal Trustees not suspended, did not return calls seeking comment, and several tribal members contacted declined to comment on the source or specifics of the charges that led to the suspension of the men, though one said that they were accused of “neglect and misconduct” in their official roles. Mr. Gumbs declined to comment on the suspensions, and Mr. Wright could not be reached.

It is not clear how the tribe will address the sudden diminution of its top governing board or how the board will function without two of its three members. Members of the Tribal Council, a 13-member advisory panel, also declined to comment.

The Tribal Trustees are volunteers, but the five members of the Gaming Authority—Donna Collins, Karen Hunter, Joan Crippen Williams, Phil Brown and Barre Hamp—are paid annual salaries from the approximately $1.5 million in funding given to the tribe annually by Detroit casino developer Michael Malick. His company, Gateway Casinos, has bankrolled the tribe’s casino push for eight years, in exchange for a portion of future profits.

Mr. Gumbs was reelected as a Tribal Trustee last year after having been off the board for a year. He and former Tribal Trustee Fred Bess have traded seats on the board in recent years as two camps have fought for control of the tribe’s leadership. Mr. King has been the Trustees chairman for most of the last 10 years by virtue of being the top vote-getter in the tribe’s annual elections, but Mr. Bess and Mr. Gumbs have been the most visible leaders of the casino effort since it was first made public in 2003. The pair tied in the tribal elections in April, and Mr. Gumbs narrowly regained his seat on the Tribal Trustees in a runoff.

In recent years, as the tribe secured federal recognition and the possibility of opening a casino became more likely, sources in the tribe have said the two have diverged in their approaches to the casino search, primarily differing on the extent of the role Mr. Malick should play in guiding the direction of the tribe’s focus. Mr. Bess is seen as Mr. Malick’s most loyal supporter in the tribal leadership, while Mr. Gumbs has publicly expressed reservations about the influence Mr. Malick is bringing to tribal affairs and about Mr. Malick’s visions of the tribal casino itself.

Last December, tribal members rejected a new contract with Mr. Malick after members of the Tribal Council raised doubts about the contract and accused the Trustees—then made up of Mr. King, Mr. Bess and Gerrod Smith—of trying to approve the new deal, which was drafted by the Gaming Authority and Gateway Casinos attorneys, without explaining it to the tribal members first or having it reviewed by independent legal counsel. After a series of tribal meetings the contract was approved by the tribe members in January.

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They're already fighting over money they don't have. Who cares.
By maxwell (169), speonk on Aug 8, 12 1:08 PM
Malik keeps uping the beads and trinkets but some of the tribe members are starting to wise up. Who is this guy who is spending all this money for unvoiced rewards to our red brothers? History shows this tribe helped the white man when he arrived on Long Island, and we had a very good relationship with all the "Indians".
OK, so they don't like the clammers too much big deal!!
By Tommy Turbo (60), Deep River, CT on Aug 9, 12 4:25 PM
"Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn't have any kind of prison. Because of this, we had no delinquents. Without a prison, there can be no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys and therefore among us there were no thieves. When someone was so poor that he couldn't afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift. We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property. We didn't know any kind of money and consequently, ...more
Aug 10, 12 5:21 PM appended by Mr. Z
The "book version": “Before our white brothers came to civilize us we had no jails. Therefore we had no criminals. You can't have criminals without a jail. We had no locks or keys, and so we had no thieves. If a man was so poor that he had no horse, tipi or blanket, someone gave him these things. We were too uncivilized to set much value on personal belongings. We wanted to have things only in order to give them away. We had no money, and therefore a man's worth couldn't be measured by it. We had no written law, no attorneys or politicians, therefore we couldn't cheat. We really were in a bad way before the white men came, and I don't know how we managed to get along without these basic things which, we are told, are absolutely necessary to make a civilized society.”
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 10, 12 5:21 PM