Lawyers for the City of Taunton admitted at last week’s Municipal Council meeting that Cedric Cromwell and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe required that “some documents” associated with the City’s negotiated intergovernmental agreement (IGA) be kept secret from the City and public. But what documents?
Are they talking about the Tribe’s rumored new application for land in trust (LIT) – which will be a public document if and when it is ever produced? Or are they referencing the Tribe’s negotiated Casino Compact with the Commonwealth? That too will be a public document open for inspection. Since both are named of the IGA which Taunton will be bound to support they should be available to the voters and the Municipal Council BEFORE they are asked to ratify the IGA and vote for a casino.
Are there other “secret documents” to which the Mashpee may refer once they have a signed IGA with the City? Is Cedric Cromwell holding back the alleged historical documents and deeds he claims are in his possession which somehow link Taunton land to Mashpee Wampanoag ownership? Even though no prior evidence of such Mashpee Wampanoag claims to Taunton lands have been recorded in the hundreds of years of state history annals will Cedric claim their existence but say they cannot be produced because they are tribal secrets? Such documents will likely be required evidence when the Tribe seeks Department of Interior approval for their off-reservation casino LIT application review. Will such secret documents, unavailable for public inspection, lay claim to other lands in Taunton the tribe intends to take into trust-related protections from local taxes and oversight once they have their foot in the door?
Now, this isn’t the first time the Tribe has invoked its alleged sovereign but mystical right to secrecy in dealing with local government to get what they want without having to produce documents that normal business entities would otherwise be required to share. Should Taunton expect to be treated like the Town of Mashpee’s elected officials who, when trying to determine which local town lands the Mashpee were claiming rights to take into trust and remove from local tax rolls, asked the tribe for the locations of historically significant burial grounds cited in their various claims, applications and tax-exemption appeals. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s response – we can't tell you, it’s a secret.
Town of Mashpee record:
Mr. Nelson read the following article which appeared in the March 23, 2012 Mashpee Enterprise: “Typically, nonpayment of property taxes would present a roadblock for obtaining building permits in Mashpee. Since the Tribe has appealed its tax bill to a state panel, a “stay” goes into effect, allowing it to apply for permits and enabling construction of the government center to move forward, according to Ms. Mason”.
To Mr. Nelson’s inquiries of the location of ancestral burial places on the site, Mr. Mark Harding, Treasurer of the Tribe, explained that the location of the remains of their ancestors are not spoken of outside the Tribe. He said that the Tribe maintains internal records. Mr. Nelson said that “ancestral burial places – that could bring this thing to a screeching halt”. Mr. Harding reiterated that the location of the burial places of the ancestors is a sacred secret of the Tribal Commission. Mr. Cromwell stated that the Tribe has federal protection on the graves and the Tribe’s ancestors are re-interred on Tribal property. He assured the Board that the Tribe would not build either on top or near the burial grounds and their ancestors’ remains would not be disturbed in any way.
Mr. Harding, Cedric Cromwell’s business partner and tribe treasurer, wasn’t being 100 percent truthful here suggesting the burial ground locations are secrets known within the Tribe. Tribe members, you see don’t even have access to the “records” cited by Harding and Cromwell and many Wampanoag tribe members have questioned the existence of various “secret” documents claimed by Cromwell in his quest for land in trust and a casino.
If the Tribe currently refuses to pay Mashpee Town taxes and fees and declines to follow local building codes that others must obey claiming sovereignty based on secret documents, what future does that present for Taunton, MA and what other secret documents will Cedric Cromwell insist we trust "exist" while he declines to produce them?
One thing is no secret. The Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell has a history of defaults on his local taxes, bank loans and utility bills, and under his leadership the Tribe has also not paid its local tax bills to the Town of Mashpee. Why do Mayor Hoye and Taunton casino proponents believe all this will change when the Wampanoag move to Taunton?