Updated: 02/19/2014 6:32 PM
Created: 02/19/2014 4:41 AM WHEC.com
By: Brett Davidsen
Opponents of a casino in Henrietta are taking aim at a local developer. They claim David Flaum is illegally lobbying government officials on behalf of the Seneca nation of Indians.
The issue is likely to come up at the Henrietta Town Board meeting tonight as a group called "No More Casinos Coalition" goes on the offensive trying to stop the Senecas from expanding into Monroe County. The Seneca Nation has told town officials they have identified land for a casino in the commercial district of Henrietta between Jefferson Road, West Henrietta Road and 390.
The group "no more casinos coalition" plans to present a petition with more than 1,400 signatures. That group is being financed, in part, by the Western Regional OTB, which admits it stands to lose lots of money at its race-track gaming location in Batavia if a casino gets built by the Seneca Nation of Indians.
OTB's vice president said they don't hide from that fact and have coalesced around a group of residents and merchants with a common interest.
Michael Nolan, OTB, said, "Our concern is a Native American casino. They pay a tax rate of 25%. We pay a tax rate of 60%. We cannot offer to our customers what they do. Just like the mom and pop restaurants in Henrietta or Monroe County won't be able to offer what the casino does because they're a sovereign nation.”
In an effort to put the brakes on a casino proposal that appears to be gaining momentum here, Western Regional OTB has filed this formal complaint with the state ethics board against local developer David Flaum. Flaum is working with the Seneca Nation to help them secure a site and develop the land.
The complaint, though, accuses Flaum of illegally acting as a lobbyist to influence government officials. They say Flaum is not registered with the state to act as a lobbyist. OTB officials say an unsigned copy of an agreement between the Senecas and Flaum.
It says Flaum is being hired for "liaison services" and he "may be required to represent the Seneca Nation's interests before municipal, county, state and any other government bodies." The agreement also spells out a "success fee" of $2.5 million if Flaum can make the casino a reality.
Nolan said, "As long as he is promoting the casino gaming to public officials in western New York, working and being paid by the Native Americans, then he needs to be a registered lobbyist so the taxpayers know how much money is being spent by special interests to locate a casino here in Monroe County.”
News10NBC has tried repeatedly to reach Flaum for comment but he has not returned our calls or emails. The Seneca Nation, which is also named in the complaint, declined comment Wednesday. According to the state lobbying act, violators can be held criminally or financially liable. There’s no word on when or if the ethics board will take up the claim.
We'll be at the town board meeting, which starts at 7:00p.m. and have reaction to all these new developments surrounding the potential casino coming up at 11.