The ruling clique of the Tuscarora Nation of Indians -- Neil Patterson Sr., Neil Patterson Jr., Leo Henry and Grand Island attorney Kendra Winkelstein -- have received nearly $12.5 million from the New York Power Authority since 2005, and nobody seems to know where the money went.
"These checks, payable to the Tuscarora Nation of Indians, have been being delivered to Leo Henry's house," state Sen. George Maziarz told the Niagara Falls Reporter in an exclusive interview. "There is no accounting to anyone what happens to the money after the checks are cashed."
Maziarz said he would be meeting with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to see what options the state has in connection with the funding, which will amount to $100 million over the next 46 years.
"These are public funds and are supposed to be for the benefit of the Tuscarora people," Maziarz said. "But, from what my many Tuscarora friends tell me, they're not seeing any benefit at all."
The Pattersons, Henry and Winkelstein never even revealed the amount of the settlement, leading most on the reservation to believe that it was somewhere between $21 million and $55 million. Even members of a select committee chosen to decide what to do with the money were flabbergasted by a May 17 report in this paper that revealed the tribe had actually gotten $100 million.
Two weeks ago Ed Farnham, one of the most outspoken critics of the ruling clique and a former member of the select committee, suffered a $75,000 loss when the building housing his business along with two others mysteriously burned down. Fire investigators working on the case have yet to issue a ruling as to the fire's cause.
And the U.S. Justice Department has issued a case number to its own investigation, which will determine whether any laws were broken in connection with the handling of the Power Authority settlement.
Documents made available to the Reporter show that the Tuscarora have received $12,484,752 since 2005 from the Power Authority, in addition to one megawatt of power annually.
With fewer than 1,000 enrolled members of the Tuscarora Nation, this could have amounted to payments of nearly $15,000 to every man, woman and child on the reservation, along with free electrical service for every household. Instead, the ruling clique has chosen to deny any electrical power whatsoever to many households, as well as medical care at the Tuscarora Clinic. Neil Patterson Sr. reportedly told tribal members that the money wasn't being distributed among the people because they would spend it on liquor and drugs.
Maziarz said many of the line items on the Tuscarora tab are beyond belief, and questioned where the money is really going.
"They got $150,000 for the Tuscarora exhibit at the Robert Moses Power Project," he said. "Have you seen it? It's a table with some knick-knacks on it."
The Tuscarora Scholarship Fund is questionable not only because of allegations about who is chosen to receive the money, but also because of the haphazard way in which funds are doled out.
"They're handing out funds in October, November, December," he said. "Aren't tuitions paid in September?"
In the end, Maziarz said, the Power Authority settlement money was meant to improve the lives of those on the reservation.
"I have a hard time justifying in my mind the fact that this small group of people is getting $100 million without any accountability whatsoever, not even to their own people," he said. "It's crazy."
The Pattersons, Henry and Winkelstein maintain an iron grip on the Tuscarora by virtue of the fact that the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, the state Power Authority and other institutions recognize them as tribal leaders.
Neil Patterson Sr. and Neil Patterson Jr. were recently denied the honor of chiefdom at a ceremony held on the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation. Leo Henry is actually a tribal chief and Winkelstein is a white woman.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Aug. 23, 2011|