Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tribal Chutzpah

It's not enough that the Long Island Indian tribes are ripping off both the tax payers as well as the small businesses throughout the region. Now-adding insult to injury-the Unkechaug Indian Nation is suing Mike Bloomberg and a whole host of Suffolk County officials for, we kid you not, discrimination and conspiracy: "A year after filing a discrimination lawsuit against Suffolk County and its officials, the Unkechaug Indian Nation has expanded its action to include New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other leaders in both their official and individual capacities, and has added conspiracy allegations to the mix."

Can you believe the nerve? Having ripped off the tax payers for around $1.6 billion collectively, a part of what surely is a conspiracy to evade the tax laws of NY State, the real conspirators are suing those who simply want to enforce the law because of the efforts to interdict the movement of contraband smokes: "The lawsuit alleges First, Fourth and 14th Amendment violations of tribal members’ freedom of speech, religion and assembly; their freedom against unreasonable searches and seizures; and their right of equal protection or due process. It was filed in response to a blockade in December 2008 of the nation’s Poospatuck Reservation by armed members of the Suffolk County Police Department who stopped cars entering and exiting the reservation and allegedly harassed and threatened tribal members."

Now the greatest irony in all of this is that these Unkechaug are part of a small Indian cohort-no more than 17,000+ statewide-who claim that New York has no right to enforce tax laws against them because of their sovereignty! But, mirabile dictu, now that they feel their rights have been infringed, they want to exercise them in our state courts-as newly minted citizens we guess.

But what we really like is the allegation that these efforts are somehow discriminatory-as if the mayor has gone out of his way to arbitrarily pick on these tribal smugglers: "We included people who were involved in a concerted effort to discriminate solely against our tribe and have the police department engaged in a blockade. The City of New York encouraged the blockade, they encouraged and solicited support from Suffolk County directly, and while both reservations on Long Island are engaged in the sale of unstamped cigarettes, which we contend is lawful, they only brought a lawsuit against our tribe,” said Wallace, who is an attorney. The other Long Island reservation is owned by the Shinnecock Indian Nation."

Okay, so the discrimination comes from the fact that not all of the members of the conspiracy was targeted at once? That's a real winning legal argument; and notice that Wallace still alleges that selling these untaxed cigarettes is a lawful activity-in spite of the fact that this illegality was affirmed by the US Supreme Court in 1994.

Suffolk County, for its part, claims the tribe doesn't have the standing to bring the action: "Suffolk County officials filed to have the case dismissed, claiming the nation does not have standing to file a discrimination lawsuit.“The county is trying to say it’s only individuals who can bring a discrimination lawsuit because it affects individual rights. We’re saying that’s not true. We’re arguing that the tribe can bring a discrimination action in its representative capacity as the people who provide for and protect tribal members,” Simermeyer said."

But all of this is just Kabuki theater. Indian tribes need to be stopped from their continuing -and richly successful-efforts to flout NY State law. If the tribes want to be treated as citizens they need to act as such-and not pick and choose when, as citizens, the laws apply or don't apply to them. Meanwhile, while all of these expensive legal machinations go on, the tax payers of New York-both city and state-are left holding the bag, and the governor remains hidden under his desk.