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SENECAS QUESTION CASINO MANAGEMENT

ANALYSIS by Mike Hudson and David Staba

Is Seneca Niagara Casino boss Mickey Brown making any money from his association with the casino aside from the $1.2 million in salary and bonuses he earned last year? And are the hiring practices at the glitzy facility skewed in favor of Brown cronies?

Many on the Seneca Nation of Indians Cattaraugus and Allegany reservations want to know.

Casino financial statements made available to the Reporter show that Brown's law firm, Brown & Carroll, received $229,000 last year. Brown, the senior partner in the firm, said he did not receive any remuneration and is not actively involved in its management.

Also under scrutiny is Brown's association with a company called MAC Gaming LLC, which purports to develop casinos, possibly in conflict with the Seneca operation here. The company's Web site lists Seneca Niagara Casino Development Director Al Luciani as senior partner along with Charlie Klewin, whose Klewin Construction transformed the former Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center into a casino in 101 days.

Both men were closely associated with Brown on the Foxwoods Casino project in Connecticut, the first highly successful Native American casino in the United States.

While Brown & Carroll are listed as an "affiliated firm" on the Web site, sources told the Reporter that "MAC" stands for "Mickey, Al and Charlie" and that Brown is, in fact, running the show.

The corporation's hiring practices illustrate a different set of problems.

Recently, a member of the Seneca Nation was named manager of the casino's poker room, only to have the job stripped away, another Seneca who has worked at the casino since it opened told the Reporter. The position went instead to a woman named Tammy Dean, who had worked for Brown during his tenure at Foxwoods.

"We weren't ever given a reason -- that's the problem," the employee said. "(The Seneca Nation member) was guaranteed the job until the last minute. Then, two weeks ago, they brought in Tammy Dean from Connecticut. They told us there was no one here qualified, but they never posted it after taking it from (the Seneca Nation member)."

Dean started at Foxwoods as a blackjack dealer and rose through the ranks there until Brown's abrupt departure some months later.

"Six months after he left, she was asked to leave because she wasn't competent or qualified for the position," the employee said. "Now he's bringing her up here. He's been doing things like this all along."

The perk-filled package given the new poker-room manager has stirred dissension among workers making $4.40 an hour plus tips, the employee said.

"They say there's no money for us. But she's given flights back and forth to Connecticut, a limo ride from the airport and compensation for meals, hotels and transportation."

Senecas who work at the casino and those who don't are angry over the disparity in "profit sharing" from Seneca Niagara's first year of operation. While Brown was handed a reported $600,000 bonus and other executives received between $30,000 and $130,000 on top of their salaries, most members of the nation received about $300 each, whether they work at the casino or not.

"They're telling us they're reinvesting the profits in the community, and that's why we're not getting more," the employee said. "A lot of the clan mothers are 88 years old. They don't want to wait another 10 years. Meanwhile, Mickey Brown gets a $600,000 check. How is that fair?"

The employee, like others who have contacted the Reporter, insisted on anonymity, fearing reprisals from above. Workers say their phone calls are being monitored and others believe they're being followed as part of management's efforts to seal leaks that led to the publication of closely guarded financial figures in the Niagara Falls Reporter and -- five days later -- the Buffalo News.

"They're accusing different people of disclosing financial information, they're monitoring phone calls. People's jobs are in jeopardy," the employee said.

As the casino's profits steadily grow, resentment among members of the tribe that made the whole thing possible toward the people brought in to run the Seneca Gaming Corp. continues to mount.

"This is our land," the employee said. "This is our casino. We're not given anything, and we're not given answers when we ask questions. They don't treat us fairly. They treat us like they're above us. And they're not.

"They've made false promises and now they're treating us like we're in a boot camp, telling us we can't talk to this person or that person."

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com March 30 2004