Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Thomas Looking For Support In Effort To Avoid Ouster
Mashantucket tribal chairman could be dismissed Thursday

By Brian Hallenbeck Published on 9/9/2009

Michael Thomas

Mashantucket - Down to perhaps his last 48 hours as tribal chairman, Michael Thomas hosted members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe at his home on the tribe's reservation Tuesday night, hoping to garner support for his bid to avoid an ouster.

Thomas declined a Day reporter's request to cover the meeting, saying he was intent on addressing only tribal members. Dozens of tribal members had arrived at Thomas' Ann Wampey Drive home by 5 p.m.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council could vote Thursday to expel Thomas from the council for unilaterally communicating to tribal members his plan to deal with the tribe's dire financial circumstances. Under the tribe's constitution and by-laws, the council may, by a three-fifths vote, expel any council member “for neglect of duty or gross misconduct after due notice and opportunity to be heard.”

Six members of the seven-member council - Thomas being the seventh member - placed him on administrative leave Aug. 31 “pending the outcome of an internal review.” They informed Thomas they were “appalled” by his Aug. 19 letter to tribal members.

The councilors charged Thomas had “betrayed our trust” by sending the letter, in which he pledged to preserve tribal government and incentive payments to tribal members before paying creditors.

The Day reported on Thomas' letter in an Aug. 26 story that also reported the tribe, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, was nearing default and seeking to restructure $2.3 billion worth of debt.

Following Thomas' appearance before the council Thursday, the councilors could vote to expel him. If that occurs, a special election would have to be held within 30 days to fill the council vacancy.

Thomas, elected to the council in 1994 and to the chairmanship in 2002, would face re-election in November if he survives the attempt to oust him.

On another tribal front, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's office made no announcement Tuesday regarding its review of the Mashantuckets' imposition of a 1 percent “tribal tax” on retail sales and hotel charges at the Foxwoods casinos.

The attorney general is looking into whether the tribe has the authority to impose such a tax. He also has said the tax - tacked onto the 6 percent state sales tax - “could be problematic” if receipts fail to break it out and identify it.

Receipts at the casinos last week showed a 7 percent “tax” listed on a single line. The additional tax was imposed Sept. 1.


EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: Could something like this happen to other tribes? Should Tribal Council members be held accountable by the tribal members? Should the Mashantucket Pequot's remove Thomas? Couldn't they just vote him out in November? Could something like this happen in the Mohegan Tribe? Critical times are coming for the Mohegans and hardship may occur because of the Mohegan Tribal Council. Will it happen? What do you think?


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