For the News-Record
JAY — A Grand Lake casino has dropped a civil lawsuit against a former employee accused of stealing more than $400,000, an attorney for the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe said Tuesday.
The Grand Lake Casino in Grove filed a petition Feb. 4 in Delaware County District Court in Jay against Pat Mae Culver. It was dropped Monday, according to court records.
The casino is owned and operated by the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe, which is based in Miami. Chief Paul Spicer referred all questions to Jess Green, an attorney for the tribe.
Green said the civil lawsuit was filed improperly.
“It (the civil lawsuit) was not filed by the tribe or a tribal entity,” Green said.
Attorney Robert McCampbell, of the Crowe & Dunlevy law firm in Tulsa, who filed the lawsuit on behalf the casino, could not be reached for comment.
A forensic auditor found the theft and had the lawsuit filed, he said. Normally in situations where there is a theft, the tribe relies on prosecutors to file criminal charges, Green said.
An investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District continues, according to Green, but is nearly complete.
Culver, who does not have a listed telephone number, could not be reached for comment.
Tribal officials say the allegations of theft have now been forwarded to the federal prosecutor’s office in Tulsa.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” Josh Lee, Culver’s attorney, said as he referred to the dismissal of the civil lawsuit.
Lee said Culver is a scapegoat for the tribe’s mismanagement and mishandling of funds.
“She is not what they are trying to make her,” Lee said.
The tribe revoked Culver’s gaming license and she has been barred from the Grand Lake Casino, Green said.
A surveillance tape showed Culver taking money from the boxes, the petition states.
Culver was the only employee working in the casino’s count room on a series of occasions when money boxes came up short, according to the court filing.
The shortages were discovered as interim general managers conducted an investigation to identify “factors contributing to the Grand Lake Casino’s economic under-performance.”
The casino, wholly owned and operated by the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe, subsequently petitioned the court for a judgment of “conversion” against her and an opportunity to recoup actual and punitive damages.
Spicer has declined to comment on the matter, except to say that he nor any of the tribe’s employees could discuss the case or comment on the estimated $421,000 missing from the casino coffers.
In the March edition of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe’s monthly newsletter, an interim tribal committee indicated that “extremely low funds” from the casino distribution prompted the business committee to modify payments typically issued through the claims/welfare committee.
Compensation for expenses related to emergency services for tribal members will no longer be provided, per a business committee resolution, the newsletter states.
Elders, however, are exempt from the mandate of the resolution.
Social services and assistance with optical, dental, hearing a burial expenses remains in place.
Also in the newsletter, Spicer announced his planned departure from the office of chief in June, citing health issues.
“I intend to retire from tribal politics this year and will resign as soon as this year’s election is settled and I swear in my successor,” Spicer said. “I have asked Janice Quick to run for election for the last year of my term.”