Blumenthal has Mashantucket tax under review
Thomas preparing for tribal meeting next week
By Brian Hallenbeck Published on 9/4/2009
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will continue to review the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe's imposition of a 1 percent “tribal tax” on retail sales and hotel charges at Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods.
”I can't say that anything is new,” the attorney general said late Thursday afternoon, having begun the review earlier in the day. “We're reviewing both the law and the actual issues involved. We haven't reached a conclusion.
”I'm not going to comment as to whom we've contacted,” he said.
Calls and e-mails directed to tribal and casino officials were not returned Thursday.
Blumenthal, informed Wednesday that the casinos' retail outlets were charging 7 percent tax, said his office would “review and possibly investigate” the matter. Robert Victoria, a Foxwoods senior vice president, said the 7 percent included the 6 percent state sales tax and a 1 percent “tribal tax,” which was implemented Tuesday.
The tribal tax “could be problematic,” Blumenthal said, if receipts failed to break it out and identify it. A receipt for merchandise purchased at a Foxwoods shop Wednesday showed the 7 percent “tax” listed on a single line, with no indication that it reflected the state sales tax and a tribal tax.
Blumenthal also said Wednesday that he would review the tribe's gaming compact with the state to determine whether the tribe has the authority to impose a tax.
Asked if the 7 percent levy remained in place, Blumenthal said Thursday that he believed it did. He would not speculate on whether money collected under the tax would be escrowed pending the outcome of his review.
”If we find that there is overcharging of the state or anyone else we will consider taking steps to recover the money,” he said.
Victoria said Wednesday that the tribal tax had nothing to do with the Mashantuckets' dire financial circumstances, which have been attributed to diminishing revenues at the casinos.
On Monday, the Mashantuckets' tribal council began a process that could lead to Chairman Michael Thomas' expulsion. The six other members of the seven-member panel placed Thomas on administrative leave pending a Sept. 10 council meeting at which the council could vote to expel him.
The councilors charged Thomas had “betrayed our trust” by e-mailing a letter to tribal members that outlined his plan for dealing with the financial crisis. Thomas pledged to preserve tribal government and distributions to tribal members before paying creditors.
In recent days, Thomas has been working on the “political stuff,” meeting with family members and preparing for a tribal meeting he plans to hold at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the tribe's community center, “or in the parking lot,” a source told The Day.
In a letter announcing the Tuesday meeting, Thomas writes that it is being “duly called” in accordance with Article IX of the tribe's constitution and by-laws.
However, Thomas' status raises a question about his authority to call a special meeting of the council. The Day has repeatedly posed the question to tribal officials in recent days but has not gotten a response.
Thomas has also circulated petitions among tribal members calling for a referendum on his status and for a special election to recall the six other councilors.