Mashantuckets fill tribal council vacancy left by Steven Thomas' resignation

Mashantucket — A Mashantucket Pequot tribal member with financial credentials won election Thursday to the tribal council seat vacated by Steven Thomas, the former treasurer who pleaded guilty to a federal charge of stealing from the tribe, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Jean Swift, a certified public accountant, will serve the remaining two years of Thomas’ term, which extends to December 2015, the tribe announced. Her tenure begins today.

“I am overwhelmed and humbled,” Swift said in a statement. “A tribal elder just told me that the (vote) was the tribal community sending a message that they believe in me. I will do all that I can to meet that honor.”

The tribe did not say how many votes Swift garnered or whether she had any competition in the special election.

Swift has been working in the office of tribal Chairman Rodney Butler. She has a bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University of Connecticut and an MBA from DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management in Chicago, according to the tribe.

Thomas resigned from the seven-member council Oct. 2, a day before pleading guilty to a theft charge in U.S. District Court in New Haven. As part of a plea agreement, he admitted falsifying time cards on which he overstated the hours he worked as assistant director of the tribe’s Department of Natural Resources Protection from Jan. 6, 2007, through Jan. 5, 2008. In exchange, the prosecution dismissed two other theft counts against Thomas and agreed not to oppose his bid for a shorter prison term than federal sentencing guidelines suggest.

Thomas, who agreed to pay the tribe $177,600 in restitution, is to be sentenced Jan. 3.

Two other tribal council seats — those of incumbents Marjorie Colebut-Jackson and Fatima Dames — are up for election Nov. 3 at the tribe’s annual meeting. Colebut-Jackson, Dames and six others declared their candidacies several weeks ago. The others were Michael L. Johnson Sr., Daniel Menihan, L. Brian Sebastian, Cynthia Sebastian-Welch, Kimberly Shockley and James D. Walker.

Council members elect the council’s officers, including treasurer.

At least two council members — Butler, the chairman, and Crystal Whipple — are subject to background checks by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which is determining the “suitability” of the partners involved in the $1 billion Foxwoods Massachusetts casino proposed for Milford, Mass.

Butler, Whipple and Scott Butera, Foxwoods’ president and chief executive officer, comprise a tribal committee formed to make all decisions related to the tribe’s investment in the project.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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