Shinnecock members oppose tribe's first constitution

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Leaders of the Shinnecock Indian Nation last week were presented with a petition signed by 152 members rejecting the recent vote to ratify the tribe's first constitution, according to people at the contentious tribal meeting.

Meanwhile, two leaders of the tribe whom the nation attempted to remove from office last year have made a formal request to the nation's tribal council to investigate current tribal trustee chairman Randy King and interim trustee Fred Bess over their involvement in a planned tribal casino at Willets Point.

The plan, rejected by New York City in 2011, was never presented to the full tribe for a vote, officials have said. A copy of the formal request for an investigation of King and Bess was shown to Newsday.

The tribe declined to comment.

Petitions objecting to the constitution vote presented a list of technical problems, including that it wasn't facilitated by a tribal election committee and that interim trustees who were not elected technically couldn't authorize it. The petitions have been circulating on the Southampton reservation in the weeks since 112 of the tribe's more than 300 eligible members voted to pass the constitution last month.

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Apparent rejection of the constitution vote comes amid a bitter leadership rift at Shinnecock after the two leaders were removed from office last year amid allegations of unauthorized business dealings. Still, Lance Gumbs and Gordell Wright have remained in office, even as the tribe named three interim trustees, including Bess, to replace them. Gumbs and Wright deny any wrongdoing and have alleged that their attempted removal was part of a "political coup" by tribal casino backers Gateway Casino Resorts to control the tribe.

Gumbs, Wright and others recently visited Washington to air complaints with the National Indian Gaming Commission alleging Gateway's interference in tribal business. NIGC spokesman Michael Odle confirmed the agency had received a letter from the men seeking a meeting but declined to comment on it.

Tom Shields, a spokesman for Gateway, said in a statement that the company won't comment on "internal tribal matters or our business agreements" with the nation, but he added Gateway "has not interfered with tribal governance decisions and has in all respects conducted its affairs in accordance with the requirements of federal law."

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