Oklahoma tribe files lawsuit against NY town, county

Friday, June 6th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AURELIUS, N.Y. (AP) -- A lawsuit was filed against a central New York town and county by an Oklahoma Indian tribe seeking to build a high-stakes bingo hall in the Finger Lakes area.

The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe is seeking an injunction to prohibit the town of Aurelius and Cayuga County from trying to stop the tribe from building the bingo hall.

The legal action, filed in federal court Wednesday, also asked the Syracuse court to declare that the Seneca-Cayugas are federally entitled to sovereign nation rights on the 229 acres they acquired in Aurelius, about 30 miles west of Syracuse, and Montezuma last year. This status would make the property exempt from taxation and any other state and local laws, including zoning and building regulations.

"Any attempt by the county or towns to enforce their zoning or tax laws would be illegal," the tribe's lawyer, David Cherubin, told the Post-Standard.

According to the Syracuse-based newspaper, Aurelius officials have said they will block construction of the $25 million bingo hall unless the tribe follows building regulations.

In 2001, the tribe and Cayuga Indian Nation of New York were awarded $247.9 million in damages for land illegally acquired from them more than 200 years ago, including the property mentioned in the lawsuit.