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Narragansetts probe governor's contributions to Rhode Island town

CHARLESTOWN, R.I. - An attorney for the Narragansett Indian Tribe is investigating the circumstances surrounding a $10,000 payment from the governor's office to the town of Charlestown that helped defray the town's legal expenses in opposing the tribe.

''Is it an appropriate allocation and does he have the discretion to do that, or does the allocation need approval by the General Assembly? That's the substantive issue we have to look at,'' said tribal attorney John Killoy.

On Feb. 15, Gov. Donald Carcieri's former chief of staff, Jeffrey Grybowski, wrote to Charlestown Administrator Edward Barrett about his request for financial aid.

''We appreciate the unique and sometimes difficult position in which Charlestown - as State's only community with a resident Indian tribe - finds itself. We are well aware of the multi-year contribution of the Town through your Solicitor on Indian Affairs on the development of law governing the interface of Tribal and State sovereignty,'' Grybowski wrote.

The most recent contribution of the town's Solicitor on Indian Affairs, Joe Larisa Jr., to the ''interface'' was arguing in federal appeals court against a BIA decision to take 31 acres of land into trust for the tribe's elderly housing.

''We agree that it seems appropriate for the State to share in the financial burden that these cases have caused the Town,'' Grybowski wrote.

Mike Maynard, the governor's press spokesman, said the recent $10,000 payment to Charlestown was not the first.

''There have been a couple of other payments of similar amounts. The payment is through the governor's budget. It's not appropriated by the Legislature. It's from a contingency budget,'' Maynard said. The decision to distribute the money is made in consultation with the governor's attorneys, he added.

Tribal council member John Brown had further questions.

''Are they paying any other town's legal bills? Do they pay for litigation against the Italians, against the Irish, against the Hispanics, against the blacks, against the Jews? Why is the governor paying money to fight against the Narragansett Tribe? Isn't that applying racial hatred and prejudice?'' Brown asked.

Mashantucket Pequots' director of utilities dies in crash

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. - A Mashantucket Pequot tribal member and executive director of the tribe's utilities department died April 10 in a road crash.

Michael Daggett, 33, sustained serious injuries after his Dodge pickup truck veered off the road and crashed into a stone wall in Ledyard just after midnight, police said. Daggett was taken by ambulance to the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, where he was pronounced dead around 1 a.m.

He is survived by his wife and three children.

Daggett was the cousin of Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Michael Thomas.

''My cousin Michael Daggett was a caring, hard-working man who loved his family, his tribe and his community. He had many gifts that he shared with us - as a husband and father, as executive director of utilities here on the reservation, and as an athlete and sports enthusiast. He was truly one of a kind,'' Thomas said in a prepared statement.

''Michael had an infectious smile and laugh supported by his own special sense of humor. We all will miss him immensely. May his memory be a blessing, may the Creator always watch over him and the loved ones he left behind always - including his wife Raphaella and his three children Michael Jr., Taylar and Teagan - and may we remember him for seven generations and beyond,'' Thomas said.

As the utilities department executive director, Daggett supervised about 10 employees and was responsible for the reception and distribution of all electricity, gas and water for the reservation, including Foxwoods Resort and Casino, Pequot Pharmaceutical Network, homes and office buildings.

A funeral service and burial was held on April 13. Donations in his memory may be made to Ledyard Youth League, P.O. Box 424, Ledyard, CT 06339 or Victory Junction Gang Camp (www.victoryjunction.org.), 4500 Adams Way, Randleman, NC 27317.

Maine House approves Passamaquoddy slots

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Maine House of Representatives voted 82 - 60 approving a bill to allow the Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe to build and operate a commercial harness racing track with slot machines - a racino - on ancestral territory now known as Washington County in northern Maine.

The April 10 vote came a little more than a week after the proposal receiving overwhelming support by the Legal and Veterans' Affairs Committee, a joint House and Senate committee, that voted 12 - 1 for the project.

The bill has a few more hurdles to jumps. It now goes on to the Senate and at least one more House vote, and will likely end up in front of voters in a referendum in November if it fails to pass in the Legislature.

The proposal reached the Legislature following a petition drive last year that garnered more than 50,000 signatures. Under the state Constitution, the Legislature has to approve a citizens' ''initiated bill'' without change or it goes to referendum.

If the Legislature approves the bill, Gov. John Baldacci can and probably will veto it, as he vetoed previous racino bills, but it would still then go to a referendum vote.

The Legislature could override the governor's bill with a two-thirds vote, but the April 10 House vote fell 19 votes short of that supermajority.

As expected, the House conducted a lively and lengthy debate on the proposal with supporters of the bill saying that a racino in Passamaquoddy would help the overall economy of Washington County, the poorest in the state, according to a recent study from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine.

The Legislature is also considering a bill to allow the Penobscot Nation to operate 400 slots during its high-stakes bingo games on its Indian Island reservation. The tribe says the non-Native Hollywood Slots in Bangor, the only gaming facility in the state, is drawing away its business.