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Rodney Butler wins another term as Mashantucket Pequot tribal chairman

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: TheDay.com

Published November 04. 2012 4:00PM   Updated November 05. 2012 12:39AM

Mashantucket — Rodney Butler, widely acknowledged as the face of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, won a fourth consecutive three-year term on the tribal council Sunday as well as a second straight term as council chairman.

Butler and two other incumbents up for re-election to the council — Steven Thomas, the treasurer, and Crystal Whipple — were returned to office in voting among tribal members at an annual meeting on the tribe’s reservation. Butler was then re-elected chairman in a separate vote of tribal members.

The seven-member council governs the tribe, whose fortunes are directly tied to those of its Foxwoods Resort Casino, including MGM Grand at Foxwoods. Butler, Thomas and Whipple were first elected together in 2009 in the wake of news that the tribe was about to default on more than $2 billion of debt incurred in growing Foxwoods.

“It has been a challenging three years for everyone in the region and beyond, and we are no different here at Mashantucket,” Butler said in a statement the tribe issued following Sunday’s meeting. “Councilor Whipple, Treasurer Thomas and I took office during a time of great political and financial unrest for our tribe. Over the course of that time, we have focused on rebuilding trust and unity within our community, and subsequently with our employees and surrounding community.

“Today’s overwhelming show of support for the three of us speaks volumes to what we have been able to accomplish as a tribe …”

In addition to the incumbents, tribal members Scott Barton, John A. Colebut and Cynthia Sebastian-Welch sought election. The tribe provided no details of the voting, including vote totals or the number of tribal members who participated.

Roughly half the tribe’s more than 900 members are adults and therefore eligible to vote.

Fatima Dames, the tribal council’s vice chairwoman, challenged Butler in the voting for chairman, according to tribal members.

Butler, in the statement, said “it has been a tremendous privilege for me to be the chairman during such a crucial time.”

Thomas, his brother Michael Thomas, a former council chairman; and a third tribal member were identified by sources earlier this year as targets of an FBI investigation of tribal finances. Steven Thomas is no longer a target of the investigation, sources said last month.

“To get elected the first time was great, but to get re-elected is wonderful,” Steven Thomas said in the tribe’s statement. “It speaks to the job you’ve done.”

Said Whipple: “I’d like to thank the tribal community for their continued support, and I look forward to serving this community in the years to come.”

The councilors’ new terms will begin in January.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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