Shinnecock Elects Three New Trustees

Gale Courey Toensing
4/3/13

Gumbs and Wright not re-elected

Shinnecock Indian Nation citizens elected three new members of their governing board of trustees on Tuesday, April 2, in an election that was blighted by angry attacks on election officials prompting calls to the state police to monitor the voting and quell any further violence.

The new trustees on the three-member trustee board are Daniel Collins Sr., Taobi Silva and Bradden Smith.  They received the most votes among the eight candidates. Collins received 166 votes, making him chairman of the board, Silva got 124 votes and Smith received 117 votes.

Brian Polite, Paula Bess, and Michelle Johnson – received 109, 42 and 27 votes, respectively.

The annual April election came in the midst of a contentious and divisive leadership battle between former Chairman Randy King, who did not run for re-election this year, and Trustees Lance Gumbs and Gordell Wright, who did run and received 89 and 70 votes respectively. The conflict centers on casino developer Michael Malik of Gateway Casino Resorts, who is financing the tribe’s efforts to establish a gaming facility at an as-yet undetermined site in the greater New York City area.

Indian Country Today Media Network received reports while the vote was underway that state police had been called in to quell the sometimes violent confrontations that had erupted during the elections.  Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said that one of the trustee candidates—a woman—allegedly threw coffee in the face of a member of the Election Committee. A brother and sister allegedly pushed their way into the center and tried to overturn a table where election information is processed. Another tribal member allegedly threw a pen at an Election Committee member and threatened to come back and “do a Columbine,” one of the sources said.

The votes were counted and available around two hours after the polls closed at 7 p.m.

Taobi Silva has previously served in an elected position as a Tribal Council member. 

Daniel Collins Sr., a former police chief at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, has not previously served in an elected position. He is the brother of Donna Collins Smith, the chair of the Shinnecock Gaming Authority and brother-in-law of her husband, Gerrod Smith, the tribe’s chief financial officer and supervisor of Diane Vieira, the tribe’s accounts manager and his wife’s sister. “Can we say family affair?” quipped a Shinnecock source who asked not to be named.

Brad Smith formerly served as an elected trustee and left the board in the early 2000’s.  He was one of three “interim trustees” King appointed last October after he and tribal members accused  Gumbs, Wright Gaming Authority members Phil Brown and Barre Hamp, and housing committee member Charles Randall of misconduct and voted them out their positions. An investigation team appointed by King accused the men of dozens of violations; another investigation team found no evidence of misconduct.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs did not recognize the vote to remove the members from office or King’s appointment of “interim trustees.

Gumbs and Wright have filed a request with the Tribal Council for an investigation into an alleged “secret deal” that Smith, King and former trustee Fred Bess made with Malik, which they allege put the tribe at financial risk undermined  the tribe’s negotiations for a casino contract.   

Gumbs, who has served as trustee for nine terms, said he was not disappointed at losing the re-election. “It wasn’t about whether I won or lost, it was about the fact that we stood for and upheld tribal law and what they had done to us was completely illegal,” Gumbs said. “And this was vindication that there are still people who believe in tribal law.” 

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