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Mashpees Scrap Middleboro Draft

The leader of the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe says the latest casino profit-sharing proposal from the Town of Middleborough is profoundly disappointing and that the tribe will scrap it.

In a letter to Middleborough's Board of Selectmen, Mashpee leader Glenn Marshall says the town is proposing fees and limits on the tribe's authority that would strip members of recently acquired sovereignty. Marshall says the offer is hostile and will not be used in negotiations. Middleborough Selectman Adam Bond says the town did not intend to insult the tribe.

"Wwe are ready willing and quite anxious to sit down at a table, get these things hammered out and move forward in a long standing and beneficial relationship for both parties."

But Bond says there are no scheduled negotiations even though town is set to vote on a final agreement in 16 days.

Below, see a copy of the Mashpees' letter to Middleborough selectmen.

July 11, 2007

Dear Members of the Board of Selectmen:

I am in receipt of Dennis Whittlesey's letter of July 3, 2007 regarding the proposed Intergovernmental Services Agreement between the town of Middleborough and the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation.

Let me state at the outset that the town has been most cordial in its dealings with the tribe and its representatives, and we remain confident that our relationship will be a long lasting one, and one that will prove a tremendous benefit to the town of Middleborough as well as the Mashpee Nation.

In fact, we had high expectations that the June agreement negotiated with Town Manager John Healy and Jon Whitten would stand up to further review, as Mr. Whittlesley stated in the public meeting in which he was retained, that the document was a good one that merely needed "tweaking." Accordingly, we expected to receive a draft that contained suggested technical improvements or which addressed topics not otherwise addressed.

But, as Chairman of the Tribe, I must tell you that I am profoundly disappointed by the draft. We have received a document, prepared by Mr. Whittlesey that would strip the tribe of the very sovereignty it has fought so hard to secure. It lays out an unprecedented set of commitments and restraints which treat the tribe as if it were a nation with no sense of discipline (fiscal or administrative) whatsoever. The provision for payment in lieu of taxes in perpetuity, when trust land cannot be taxed, is but one example where the town seeks to void rights guaranteed to us as a result of federal recognition. In the earlier agreement, we had agreed to a payment in lieu of taxes to cover the gap period between the land going into trust and our project opening when annual payments would begin. We did that (at a rate 50% above the town's current commercial tax rate) as a gesture of goodwill to address start-up impacts, and that gesture has seemingly been thrown back in our face.

Personally, I am particularly disturbed by what we perceive as an unnecessarily hostile tone that runs through the document. Section 18, for instance, states that the tribe will not exercise its civil jurisdiction over persons who are not members of any Indian Tribe on tribal land. Would the Town of Middleborough give up its right, and in fact its duty, of civil jurisdiction over a category of people within the borders of the town? The draft, as presented, implies that the Mashpee Nation will be unable to exercise its civil authority. I just don't believe that this is the position of the town of Middleborough.

Given the above, we are not willing to negotiate from the draft of July 3, 2007. As we have publicly stated, the proposed agreement presented to the Board of Selectmen in June, providing a minimum of seven million dollars plus a commitment to fund infrastructure improvements is a fair one, and we are open to further discussion based on that document. Moreover, as confirmed by Mr.Whittlesey, the tribe is under no legal obligation to enter into an agreement with the town. That said, it would greatly prefer to reach an agreement with the town of Middleborough and are prepared, as always, to be good neighbors, and to work together to benefit both the residents of Middleborough and the members of the tribe, from the standpoint of mutual cordiality, respect, and trust.

We are heartened by the show of support in the town, particularly the men and women who work for the town and understand the benefits of the June proposal, and we are comfortable with the concept of town meeting approval of an agreement. We hope that you will join with us in seeking common ground for a mutually beneficial agreement.

Sincerely,
Glenn Marshall, Chairman of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council

This program aired on July 12, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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