Depositions held on possible court order violations
KENT, Conn. - Attorneys for the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation conducted
depositions during the week of July 18 to see if elected officials and
local residents directly or indirectly violated a court order prohibiting
them from lobbying Interior Department officials during the tribe's
A ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Peter Dorsey in May gave the tribe
the green light to probe public officials and private citizens who took
park in a closed-door meeting last winter hosted by TASK - Town Action to
TASK is an anti-casino, anti-recognition group of local residents who
launched a $1.5 million fund-raising drive last summer to help the town and
state overturn the BIA's January 2004 decision to grant federal recognition
to the Kent-based tribe.
At the meeting, TASK introduced public officials to lobbyists from the
high-powered, nationally known Washington, D.C. lobbying firm of Barbour,
Griffith & Rogers, which TASK hired to lobby elected officials to help
overturn the Schaghticokes' acknowledgement.
In requesting permission from Dorsey to conduct the deposition, the tribe's
attorneys said they wanted to find out if officials were circumventing the
court's prohibition against meeting Interior Department officials by using
the citizens' group and its lobbyists as proxies.
Since TASK's closed-door meeting, U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-New Britain,
has filed a bill in Congress co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Christopher
Shays and Robb Simmons to terminate the tribe; the state's congressional
delegation and governor testified against the tribe at a hearing called by
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on the federal recognition process; and the
Interior Board of Indian Appeals voided the BIA's decisions recognizing the
Schaghticokes and another Connecticut tribe - the Eastern Pequots - and
sent them back to the bureau for reconsideration.
"We disagree with the implication that, via TASK's effort, either Congress
or the White House got to the IBIA and affected a political outcome. There
is no evidence to support this. TASK has engaged professionals with
experience in petitioning policy makers in the government, which we have
fully disclosed as required by federal law," said TASK President Kenneth
Elected officials who will be deposed are Kent First Selectman Delores
Schiesel, board members Dan Soule and Nancy O'Dea Wyrick, and Republican
state Reps. Andrew Roraback and Maryanne Carson.
O'Dea Wyrick was a TASK member until January, when the press questioned
whether her position on the selectmen's board conflicted with her
Cooper and TASK co-founder James Perkins will be deposed, as well as
lobbyist Bradley Blakeman.
The nationally known lobbying firm was founded in 1991 by Haley Barbour,
the current governor of Mississippi, who was elected in 2003. Barbour
served as adviser to President Reagan, director of the White House Office
of Political Affairs, two terms as chair of the Republican National
Committee, and chaired President Bush's Washington Campaign Advisory
Committee in 2000.
Blakeman joined the lobbying firm in January 2003 as a vice president
following his tenure as a deputy assistant to the U.S. president.
He was the lead advance representative for three presidential campaigns,
including Bush/ Cheney in 2000, and consultant to the president and vice
president from 1980 to 1993.
A new addition to the list of deposees is Fran Johnson, president of the
Kent Historical Society and author of a book called "The History of Kent
Johnson, a genealogist, said in a published report recently that her
unpublished notebooks include information about Schaghticoke birth
certificates, obituaries and notes she copied from old ledgers. She said
she has not shared the information with tribal researchers but admitted,
however, to sharing some of the information with a rival faction of the
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.
Johnson could not be reached for comment by press time.