Owner of Palmer casino site seeks to depose Mohegan officials

Attorneys for the landlord suing Mohegan Sun over its failed pursuit of a $1 billion casino project in Palmer, Mass., are seeking to take sworn statements from more than a dozen representatives of the Mohegan Tribe, including the nine members of the tribe’s governing body.

The sworn statements, or depositions, would be taken later this month and in April in connection with Northeast Realty Associates’ breach-of-contract suit against Mohegan Sun, a Northeast spokesman said Monday.

A Mohegan Tribe official said the Mohegans would not comment on any aspect of the pending litigation other than to say they intend to “rigorously defend ourselves.”

Mohegan Sun had pursued the Palmer project in western Massachusetts before voters there rejected the plan in a Nov. 5 referendum. At some point, Mohegan Sun shifted its focus to Greater Boston, where it has proposed a $1.3 billion project on land the Suffolk Downs thoroughbred track owns in Revere.

Mohegan Sun continues to control the 152-acre casino site in Palmer through a long-term lease.

In a lawsuit filed Feb. 20 in Hampden Superior Court in Springfield, Northeast alleged that Mohegan Sun had violated an “exclusivity agreement” that prohibited it from pursuing a Massachusetts casino license anywhere but in Palmer. The suit also alleged that Mohegan Sun officials began discussions with Suffolk Downs prior to the Palmer referendum, a charge Mohegan Sun has repeatedly denied.

During the upcoming depositions, attorneys for Northeast will be searching for evidence of such talks.

The closeness of the Palmer referendum prompted a Nov. 26 recount that affirmed the outcome. Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs announced the next day that they had reached an agreement on the Revere project.

In a letter late last week, Andrew Dennington, an attorney for Northeast Realty, informed an attorney for the tribe that he was seeking to take depositions of Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council; the eight other members of the council; Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority; and Kevin Conroy, an outside attorney for Mohegan Sun.

Dennington, in another letter, also provided notice of his intention to depose Suffolk Downs officials, Revere officials and representatives of other Mohegan Sun partners and associates.

In late January, Dennington sought copies of Revere officials’ email and voicemail records of communications between them and Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs officials. In response, the Revere city solicitor wrote that a search of the records of Mayor Daniel Rizzo and his staff “failed to produce any records responsive to your public records request.”

Northeast has also requested copies of communications between the gaming commission and Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs officials.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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