On May 17, 2012 Mayor Tom Hoye of Taunton, MA signed a binding Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe granting the Tribe the rights to take lands off the City tax rolls for the purposes of creating an Indian reservation casino complex in return for various promised payments and bond deals. The flaws of this agreement notwithstanding, let’s consider in whose trust Mayor Hoye is placing Taunton’s future with this casino project. A minor amount of background information is required to do so.
First, all U.S. commercial gaming interests and most tribal gaming authorities have published rules available for public inspection about who can and cannot work for a casino including requirements for background checks. The Mashpee Wampanoag, however, have not made public their gaming authority regulations, nor have they shared them with their own Tribe members.
Chairman Cromwell has enacted a Mashpee Wampanoag Indian gaming tribal ordinance securing him the sole right to negotiate and manage all casino-related activities for the tribe. Further, Mr. Cromwell has also incorporated a separate, for profit real estate development company (Project First Light, Inc), which he controls with his cousin Aaron Tobey and tribe treasurer Mark Harding for the purposes of purchasing lands with money he has borrowed under his tribal gaming authority ordinance.
Unlike most gaming ventures, the Mashpee Wampanoag gaming regulations and deals are developed in secret with no outside review or authority. Money borrowed by Cromwell on behalf of the tribe flows from Malaysian casino syndicate Genting to Project First Light, Inc. without any auditing or sunshine. Not even members of their own tribe have the authority to review them without permission from Cedric Cromwell.
Any type of arrangement like this involving hundreds of millions of dollars, without oversight or transparency, is a potential breeding ground for embezzlement and corruption. As such, due diligence and background checks by the City of Taunton with regards to the person with whom they are entering into a binding legal agreement should not be considered unreasonable.
In fact, all commercial gaming interests and most Indian tribes require both credit and criminal background checks to make sure even low level job applicants have no defaults, large debts or tax problems. Unfortunately such checks are not enforced in Massachusetts for people overseeing casinos as Governor Patrick vetoed the bill requiring such checks. And, these types of checks are most certainly not required for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. Why? One answer may be that, as reported here and in multiple other sources, the Mashpee Wampanoag chairman would not likely fare well under such scrutiny.
Cedric Cromwell’s credit report would most certainly reveal the Massachusetts Trial Court order executed on January 11, 2011 commanding the Sheriff of Bristol County to seize Cromwell’s real and personal property to recover an unpaid judgment levied against Cromwell for defaulting on his mortgage to the Household Finance Corporation. Cromwell had been served notice of this default judgment back in May of 2009 but failed to make good for more than a year and a half forcing his creditors and the Court to issue a Sheriff’s order to seize his assets. And, this is not a simple, onetime accounting error by Cedric Cromwell.
Cedric Cromwell’s background check would also reveal news reports that he failed to pay his Attleboro real estate taxes and utility bills from 2008 through 2009 causing his property to be listed in default and scheduled to be auctioned to collect those back taxes by the City of Attleboro. Additional digging with the North Bristol County Registrar of Deeds reveals that Cedric Cromwell has multiple other records of defaulting on loans, taxes and utility bills which have required court actions threatening to seize his assets to force him to pay his bills. These include (follow the links in each bullet point or click here to view the various court orders and rulings):
- On June 25, 2004, the City of Attleboro issued an instrument of taking against Cedric Cromwell seizing title to his home for non-payment of taxes.
- On August 25, 2004, the City of Attleboro issued a municipal lien against Cedric Cromwell’s property for failure to pay his 2003 real estate taxes and utility bills.
- On December 19, 2006, the Massachusetts District Court ordered Cedric Cromwell’s property and assets seized by the Bristol County Sheriff for failure to pay a court ordered judgment for defaulting on a loan to Discover Bank.
- On January 11, 2011, the Massachusetts District Court (again) ordered Cedric Cromwell’s property and assets seized by the Bristol County Sheriff for failure to pay a court ordered judgment for defaulting on a loan to Household Finance Corporation.
Now, by all accounts Cedric Cromwell no longer resides at the above noted Attleboro residence; however, no other land deeds or transfers in his name appear to be recorded anywhere else in Southeast Massachusetts. Tribe members report he is now living in a mansion somewhere on the Cape - if so, who owns his new digs and how are they paid for? So many questions raised and so much past evidence of financial concerns associate with Mr. Cromwell that a simple background check by the City of Taunton would reveal.
Further, any background check involving a minor modicum of due diligence searching public statements by Cedric Cromwell would reveal him to be willing to threaten to withhold payments to the state if he doesn’t get his way: “If the state gives a commercial license to another casino operator, we won’t pay the state a cent when we build a casino in Southeastern Massachusetts once expanded gaming is approved,” said Cedric Cromwell. “We will destroy the competition because we won’t pay licensing fees or taxes...”
So, the question for the Taunton Municipal Council in considering ratification of Mayor Hoye’s IGA with Mr. Cromwell is would you trust this guy the job to run your casino, honor contracts and pay his bills? Is this the type of background record of someone with whom you want to do business over the next few decades?
Councilors Ryan Colton, Daniel Mansour Barbour, Deborah Carr, Donald Cleary, Sherry Costa-Hanlon, Andrew Marshall, John McCaul, Alan Mederios and David Pottier should all be put on notice that they cannot claim ignorance of all this after the fact or after they vote on Thursday.