While state Assemblywoman Francine Del Monte has made herself one of the most recognized faces on all matters relating to the casino compact between the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians, her brother, attorney John Del Monte, has quietly represented the Seneca Niagara Falls Gaming Corp. in a number of court actions.
John Del Monte also serves as his sister's attorney and campaign manager.
He last made news on Jan. 29, when Gary Parenti -- who is challenging Francine Del Monte in September's Democratic Primary -- filed a stalking and harassment complaint against him with the Niagara Falls Police Department following an incident in front of Parenti's Forest Avenue home. No charges have been filed in the case.
The Niagara Falls Reporter will continue to dig in an attempt to discover the full scope of the relationship between John Del Monte and the Senecas. Several items uncovered this week point to an ongoing association going back to at least 2004.
Sources said Del Monte represented the Senecas in closing the $4 million deal on Frank Amendola's Niagara Office Building on Niagara Street between Third and Fourth streets. Most of the building's tenants were forced to move and the building came off the tax rolls.
Two tenants, the Niagara Aerospace Museum and HSBC Bank, stayed on. But the Senecas are currently suing in their own Peacemaker Court to eject the museum, and the bank is pursuing a plan to relocate to Main Street, across from the main Post Office.
Another aspect of Del Monte's work for the Senecas is to collect on gambling debts. These cases don't go to the Seneca's Peacemaker Court, but to the New York State Supreme Court, where Del Monte uses his skills to collect from people who made the mistake of betting more than they had.
On May 28, 2004, he won a judgment against Niagara County resident Kathleen Hotchkiss in the amount of $8,601, and, on Feb. 28 of this year, he won $13,059.50 in a case against David Enricco, records show.
The irony is that, if you're injured in a slip-and-fall accident at the Seneca Niagara Casino, you have no recourse other than the Peacemaker's Court, which is comprised of individuals who directly benefit, monetarily, from the casino.
But if you're foolish enough to spend more than you have at the gaming tables, you can count on the assemblywoman's brother to come after you in our own state courts to collect on behalf of the Seneca, a sovereign nation.
The legality of this is confusing, and in talking to several attorneys last week, several different opinions emerged. Do the Senecas waive their right to sovereign immunity by bring cases in state court, or are they protected by the structure of the gaming corporation?
In any case, having Assemblywoman Francine Del Monte representing our interests in the state's dealings with the Senecas while her brother is working for them raises at least some question as to how effective her representation is.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||April 4 2006|