The Shinnecock Indian Nation elected three new Tribal Trustees on Tuesday, in an election marred by angry confrontations and even assaults on election officials, leading to State Police being called to oversee the voting.
Daniel Collins Sr., Taobi Silva and Brad Smith won the three seats on the tribe’s Board of Trustees. They were the top three vote-getters among a field of eight candidates for the tribe’s top posts. Mr. Collins will be the chairman because he collected the most votes, 166. Mr. Silva got 124, and Mr. Smith, a former Trustee who had been serving as an interim Trustee since November, got 117. Each seat is for a one-year term.
Several arguments, shoving and at least two incidents of election officials having things thrown at them by others—including, reportedly, by one of the candidates—broke out around the polling site on the reservation early Tuesday morning, according to tribe members and official sources off the reservation familiar with the morning’s events.
One of the members of the Election Committee, the panel of tribe members that manages and oversees tribal elections, was doused with hot coffee by a candidate, according to a witness. The candidate’s name was not disclosed.
Members of the committee called on several young men who are members of the tribal Warriors Society to stand guard at the polling place until State Troopers arrived, because tribal security was not present, one witness, a tribe member, said on Tuesday.
Trooper Daniel O’Hare on Tuesday noted that troopers had been sent to the reservation to supervise the polling, but said the office had not been made aware of any acts of violence connected to the balloting beforehand. Some half a dozen troopers were at the polling place throughout the day.
It will be the first time in more than a decade—since before the tribe began its push for federal recognition and the rights to casino gaming that come with it—that neither departing Chairman Randy King nor former Trustees Lance Gumbs and Fred Bess have sat on the board.
The conflicts that drew the police were reportedly linked to the deepening split between two camps within the tribe over the handling in recent years of the tribe’s relationship with a Detroit casino developer. Mr. Gumbs and former Trustee Gordell Wright, along with two Gaming Authority members, have accused Mr. King and Mr. Bess of kowtowing to the developer, Gateway Casino Resorts, and of taking steps to hide their actions, negotiations for potential casino deals and details of contracts with Gateway from tribe members.
The four men were ostensibly removed from their official posts in a disputed vote last October, that they have dubbed a political coup to quash their scrutiny of contracts drafted by Gateway and other members of the tribe. They were replaced by three interim Trustees, including Mr. Bess and Mr. Smith, appointed unilaterally by Mr. King—a move Mr. Gumbs and Mr. Wright decried as violating tribal law.
Despite calls from some factions of the tribe to banish them from seeking public office ever again, the Election Committee allowed Mr. Gumbs and Mr. Wright to run for their seats again this year. Mr. Gumbs received 89 votes on Tuesday and Mr. Wright received 70, according to tribe members. Brian Polite receive 109 votes, Paula Bess received 42 and Michelle Johnson received 27.
Mr. King, the incumbent Tribal Trustees chairman, did not seek reelection.