Tribe members question finances
By ROBERT GOLD
September 23, 2009
MASHPEE — Several members of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe hand-delivered a request to the tribe's headquarters yesterday seeking more information on how the tribe's money is spent.
They didn't get the sit-down they were hoping for from the administration but said they wouldn't stop until they did.
About a dozen members showed up yesterday afternoon, including several "golden elders," those at least 62 years old.
They argued that the new leaders, including chairman Cedric Cromwell, have not been open enough about the tribe's finances. Cromwell was elected in February. In the past, a financial report was given to members at a monthly meeting. But that stopped when Cromwell took over, they claimed.
Cromwell countered in a telephone interview that his administration has provided much more financial details than in years past, including the data in the monthly statements.
Last month, opponents of Cromwell called for and received an emergency meeting to talk about finances.
Cromwell said he gave out extensive information, including all bank accounts.
Some opponents at headquarters last night argued the information was not up to date.
Those who came to headquarters yesterday dropped off a sheet, demanding they could review several things including "all tribal bank and other financial accounts" and the "financial status and draw downs on all grants."
Some worried that grants could be used for incorrect purposes.
They demanded to review all checks written by treasurer Mark Harding.
"It's all on the books," Harding said last night about any checks written by him.
Opponents asserted that tribal members were being added that didn't fit tribal criteria.
Tribe member and "golden elder" Paul Mills said members were in the dark on how money was being spent, which limited them on knowing whether grant money was actually being used appropriately or not.
When asked about the questions on grant money and tribal membership, Cromwell said he couldn't "validate their (claims) at all."
In May, investors stopped monthly payments to the tribe. Those funds were being used to pay the administration's operating expenses and pursuit of a casino in Middleboro.
Tribe member and "golden elder" Norman Dias said the need for financial answers was even more urgent since the investor money was no longer coming to the tribe.
"We want answers to those questions," Dias said.
Cromwell said opponents should make their concerns known formally at the general membership meetings.