Transcription November, 1997

St. Petersburg Times Interview with Chief Billie
Full Transcription (Tape One)

This is a transcription of an Oct. 22, 1997 St. Petersburg Times interview with Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman James Billie and other Tribal officials in Gulfport, Fl. Though the Times requested the interview, as part of its ongoing investigation of the Seminole Tribe's people and government, Times attorneys refused to allow reporters to conduct their questioning on Seminole reservation land. "What they don't understand is the reservation is my world, everywhere else is their world," said Chairman Billie. "There is no neutral site."

Nevertheless, the Chairman agreed to meet with the Times beneath an open public shelter on sunny Gulfport Beach, only a few minutes from the St. Petersburg Times complex in downtown St. Petersburg. The newspaper submitted its questions in advance and agreed to answer questions from the Seminole Tribune, also submitted in advance. The interview was taped by both the Tribe and the Times and documented by photographers from both entities.(pictured here: Showdown at Gulfport - St. Pete Times on the left, Seminole Tribal officials on the right)

Great effort has been made to transcribe this tape exactly as the interview proceeded; actual court reporters were involved in the transcribing of the two-hour conversation. As would be expected, there were times when several persons spoke at once, as well as inaudible portions that could not be discerned; however, no critical information appears to have been in these categories.

Present at the interview and quoted in this transcription are Chairman James Billie (CHIEF), Tribal comptroller Ted Boyd (Boyd), Tribal Housing Director Joel Frank (Frank), Tribal Special Projects Writer Peter B. Gallagher (Gallagher), Tribal Police Chief Tom Hernan (Hernan), Seminole Aviation Director Capt.Charles Kirkpatrick (Kirkpatrick), St. Petersburg Times reporters Jeff Testerman (T) and Brad Goldstein (Goldstein) and Times Editor Tom Scherberger (Editor).

Note: The end of the interview featured numerous conversations at the same time, during the interview of Times Editor Scherberger by Tribune reporter Gallagher. While the gist of the content is discernible, an exact transcription is impossible. Thus, this transcription ends after Chairman Billie's final answer. Material from Gallagher's interview with Scherberger will be used in a future story in both the print and electronic Seminole Tribune on this site.

Note: a small portion of the interview began before the tape recorder was turned on, at the start of a discussion of Tribal income producing businesses:

(Tape One)

Boyd: . . .we have cell telephone ventures, Billie Swamp Safari . . .
T: What's the telephone company?
CHIEF: It's something like this. (Points to a cell phone on the table) A telephone.
Goldstein: Is it, is it an ownership or is it a stock equity holding or, uh . . ..
CHIEF: We're partners.
Goldstein: Partners?
CHIEF: As minorities, yeah.
T: Didn't know that. What about your airplane company?
CHIEF: Airplane that's the, uh, it used to be Meyers Airplane, it's called Micco now.
T: Right.
CHIEF: And I think, uh, we're getting' our certification next couple of days, hopefully, maybe couple weeks.
T: You got, uh, one of the biggest cattle farms . . .
CHIEF: No.
T: . . . and cattle holdings in the nation?
CHIEF: Nah. That's what they say but . . .
T: I looked it up. I looked it up. You've got the tenth biggest herd in the country.
CHIEF: Well, that's what it says but that doesn't mean it's big because I went somewhere off the reservation and . . .
Gallagher: Calves.
CHIEF: . . . I bought 108 cows, I mean I bought a hundred cows and I was settin' over there in, uh, Clewiston and I'm proud that I had 100 cows that I bought for myself. and this guy said, "Hey." This was the Hilliard guy. One of the Hilliard boys said, "I heard you got you some cows." I said, "Yes, I did." So a little bit, a little bit during a conversation with him, finally I said, "How many head you got?" "I got about 60,000." Now you can't tell me we're the biggest cattle -- there's only about how many head of cattle? Five . . . About 10,000 would you say?
Boyd: About ten thousand.
CHIEF: If that.
T: Yeah.
CHIEF: So whoever said that was . . .
T: Do you make money with the cattle?
CHIEF: Never has made money. Never has made money. It's, uh...
T: Why not?
BILLIE: I mean I just got into the cowboy, I've not . . .
Gallagher: It's individual . . .
CHIEF: But this is not a Tribal operation, these are individual people.
T: Okay.
CHIEF: Yeah. So you have to ask them. I don't . . .
T: None of them are making money?
CHIEF: I have not made money.
T: You're, uh, you've got a Sheraton hotel?
CHIEF: Yeah, I do.
T: Bahia Beach Resort.
CHIEF: Yeah.
T: That's new.
CHIEF: Yeah
T: What are your plans for Bahia Beach?
CHIEF: Uh, refurbish it and, uh, have people come in and sleep and enjoy themselves. What else can I do with it?
T: You ever see it as a gambling site of any sort?
CHIEF: If you're as smart as I think you guys are at St. Pete Times you might know that it can't happen like that. In 1987 I think a law came down, Joel, that lands like that can't go into gaming . . . (Joel Frank nods)
T: What about a gambling ship?
CHIEF: Gambling ship we do. We do have a, uh, we do have one. Again, if you walked out the Bahia Mar yourself, then you wouldn't ask me that stupid question. It's very shallow there.
T: Yeah.
CHIEF: So some of these questions, try to talk to me a little bit more astute.
Gallagher: There are individual cattle owners, though, that make money.
CHIEF: Oh, he does.
Gallagher: Yeah, I'm saying, I was goin' back to that cattle thing
CHIEF: Yeah, the individual people make money, not the Tribe.
Goldstein: Yeah.
CHIEF: But we do have an investment in a boat and I forgot what the hell the name of that boat is.
Gallagher: Seminole Empress
CHIEF: Seminole Empress
T: Now what about it? Is it, uh . . .
CHIEF: I think it's on its way to Miami or Fort Lauderdale right now because we don't have a, uh, quite enough business here.
Goldstein: Is it the boat? Or the . . .
CHIEF: Have you even seen it?
Goldstein: I have, but...
CHIEF: You went to Peru, right?
Goldstein: Yeah, I did.
CHIEF: This is just across the bay. It don't cost you that much to go check it out. So don't ask me that. (Laughs)
Goldstein: Is it the boat or the Coastal Gaming that ya'll have invested in?
CHIEF: I think we have a percentage in it. We -- what do you mean?
Goldstein: Is it, is it you own the actual boat, or is it the Coastal Gaming you own a percentage of?
Chief: (Looks at Boyd) What is it?
Boyd: This is currently being negotiated, uh. If, uh, the negotiations are completed we'll own a percentage interest in the boat and the casino operations.
T: (Looks at Chief) So it's two different businesses really?
CHIEF: He knows more about it than I do.
Boyd: It will be consolidated.
T: Uh, other businesses that the Tribe has. You got a . . .what about, uh, seasoning? What about, uh...
CHIEF: That's my own seasoning.
T: Yeah. Is it a money maker?
CHIEF: Well, it just got started. So I don't know. I've only been with it about a year.
Goldstein: Chief Jerky?
CHIEF: Chief Jerky's a Tribe, it just started within a year, so it's just started to get on its feet.
T: Just brand new
CHIEF: Yeah, brand new.
T: The rope factory?
CHIEF: Uh, the rope factory's brand new and I'm not quite sure where we are on it. (Looks at Boyd).
Boyd: Well, we're running at a deficit at the current time. This is difficult to assess, because these are new businesses in the first year of operation . . .
CHIEF: It's brand new . . .these are new businesses . . .you want to buy some advertising in St. Pete?
Goldstein: How about Seminole Brand Farms?
CHIEF: Seminole Brand, uh, Seminole Brand Farms. That was a good one that . . .
Boyd: Seminole Farms
CHIEF: Yeah, it wasn't going quite well. Uh, so we re-negotiated that thing. Hopefully El Nino will help us out. I think at the beginning things might have gone well, but we had a fight with NAFTA. Not fighting with it, but they really undercut our prices and, uh, but instead we were at a deficit. But this year I think we're gonna come out of it.
T: Okay.
Goldstein: You said this year. You mean 97-98, this fiscal year, or . . .
CHIEF: Yeah. So those are the years when, right about the time I got into that, thinking I was gonna do good in it, I think Clinton put something in effect with NAFTA with the Mexicans.
T: What about your Swamp Safari. You've got a lot of people comin' to that thing.
CHIEF: Uh, not right now. I need about a thousand people a day to do something but that was built trying to stay ahead of the possibility maybe gaming coming in one day. But it has taken hold. People are coming in. It runs at somewhat of a deficit but I'm gonna stay there. I'm not gonna be behind on anything. If, uh, casinos come in, they're looking for entertainment to come out there, uh, they'll be something there. And we just opened up a museum, same thing, staying ahead of it.
T: Now the museum, brand new.
CHIEF: Yeah, brand new.
T: Three million dollars.
CHIEF: Yeah.
T: Uh, do you ever expect to turn a profit there? Can you turn a profit in that location?
CHIEF: Am I talking to the St. Pete Times, the most astutest people on earth? Libraries and museums don't make money.
T: Okay.
CHIEF: Okay. So give me a break.
Bystander: Can I ask a question, please sir?
CHIEF: Yeah.
Bystander: Is this a one time meeting here or what?
T: Yes. Just one time.
CHIEF: We'll be finished in a minute.
Bystander: Alright. No, no problem.
CHIEF: But these guys (points to reporters) You kill them, not me.
Bystander: What I am saying is this is the music pavilion and it's Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
T: We'll never, we'll never be back.
CHIEF: (laughs) we'll ask you if you're quitting so we can . . .
T: In terms of businesses you do have, aside from the gaming, uh, do you have businesses that are turning a profit for you?
CHIEF: I think like I just answered you a while ago. A lot of these things are, we're new into the money game. I think the largest monies that we started getting into has just been within these last few years. With that money we're trying to get started and see which one of the businesses will take hold. We don't know which one. Uh, that, uh, the thing that has created a profit but not the kind of money that could generate millions right now would be that, uh, telephone thing.
Boyd: The cell telephone company has been turning a small profit . . .
CHIEF: Meyers, I think Meyers is gonna come forth pretty soon. Um . . .
Boyd: Billie Swamp is making profits.
CHIEF: Billie Swamp will make it. These things are, takes a little bit of time. It just doesn't make it overnight.
T: Okay.
CHIEF: We are in a location way the hell out in the country, about 60 or 50 miles away and you're not gonna see average, daily bear comin' out there. But it's increasing. It's just a difficult, long term business. Even though we're runnin' a deficit, uh, just tried to get that thing going, get on the map. So it'll take a while.
T: Okay.
CHIEF: The, uh, airplane, I think we're showing it in Orlando. Uh, at Show walter, at Executive this week.
T: The manufactured plane?
CHIEF: Yeah. And hopefully, hopefully when we get our, what they call a certification, then we'll be in good shape.
T: Uh, can you give us an idea to what extent you rely on, as a Tribe, on gaming?
CHIEF: Oh, shit. About 80%.
Boyd: About 80-90 per cent of our revenues . . .
CHIEF: Eighty percent. A large amount.
T: And in terms of, uh, the gaming machines. How critical are the gaming machines to the overall picture?
CHIEF: The gaming machine could be almost 80% I would say.
T: Okay.
CHIEF: Yeah.
T: Where do you stand right now with, uh U.S. Attorney Wilson and that situation?
CHIEF: That I don't know. Attorneys can answer that, I don't know.
T: Do you, uh, what, what would happen if the government should prevail in that, in that argument?
CHIEF: Nothing, nothing more than, uh, losing about 80% of the income of the bingo monies.
T: Then what happens?
CHIEF: Nothing. We'll just tighten up our belts and continue on.
T: You would, that would not be a crisis for you at all?
CHIEF: It might be a crisis for somebody, but this is what I have always tried to tell the Tribe, uh, try to save money. But, you know, there's five people on a Council so they make a decision to do something, so I'm not quite sure what the answer'd be. But I wouldn't go runnin' scared, we'll . . . governmental operations will always exist.
T: Does the Tribe have, uh, money saved? Do you have a contingency fund?
CHIEF: We tried to do that a couple times and every time, uh, we got to a particular point one councilman, two councilmen, especially Max Osceola and Jack Smith, Jr. were always the ones that advocated for givin' X number of dollars up before we could understand what we, was doin' -- the largest amount I remember saving one time that I was gonna leverage and buy a place called Duck Key for our own use and, uh, turn it into a resort, was about 28 million, wasn't it? And I think Max Osceola stood up and maybe it was a campaign gesture or somethin' -- the next thing I know, less than six months, the money was gone.
T: Okay.
CHIEF: Yeah, so they haven't saved any.
T: So really, right now you have no so-called rainy day fund?
CHIEF: No. We, we have probably a little bit but not, not enough to, uh . . . Boyd Not $28 million.
CHIEF: Not 28 million . . .
REPORTER: But do you run a deficit on the budget that you have right now?
CHIEF: No.
T: You do not?
CHIEF: You can't because...
Boyd: You can't spend more than you get.
CHIEF: Yeah.
Boyd: We're not going into debt.
T: You could learn something from the U.S. government.
CHIEF: From who?
T: The U.S. Government?
CHIEF: Yeah. You can do -- we don't have war powers. I can't, I can't claim a war on somebody and make money.
T: Uh, how big, what, what's the size of your budget right now?
CHIEF: Uh, right now, this is approximation. It doesn't mean it's -- I'm sure you know what approximation means.
T: Sure.
CHIEF: We're hopin' about 130 million but if the money doesn't come in, it might not even make it.
T: Okay. Uh, the Tribe has never managed its own casinos. Brighton might be an exception, I don't, I'm not sure . . .
CHIEF: That's a guess. . .
T: The big casinos, you turn it over to non-Seminole management companies.
CHIEF: We didn't turn it over. Let's start. Let's get that correct so you can say that correctly to yourself.
T: Okay.
CHIEF: In 1979, Seminole Tribe did not know a damn thing about the casinos. Uh, I think a former Chairman named Howard Tommie was, uh, Chairman at the time and there was a proposal sent to him and for some reason unbeknownst to me and I've never really dug into it, uh, he stepped down from being a Chairman. He was an excellent Chairman for eight years and he decided to step down and, uh, I think about the first day or second day I was in, uh, I think Ted showed me -- here's something that was laying -- this gentleman right here -- came up to me and said, "Here's something you should look at. It's got some good numbers." I looked at it, we started. So we made an agreement with them for about, oh, what was it? 25 years.? Yeah, it was for about 99 or 50 years, something like that, 55 years.
Boyd: Yeah.
CHIEF: So we knocked it down to like, um, 25 years and a 55/40, what's that 55/45? Yeah, 55/45 and that's when history began. So I just honored their contract for 25 years. At that time we didn't know what kind of money that was. The Tribe had only about $600,000 or less than a million anyway, heavily dependent on the U.S. Government, which, uh, which is not an embarrassing situation because even the State of Florida goes after federal funds and, State of Florida sure had billions of dollars, not just a hundred million.
T: Sure.
CHIEF: So, uh, I made the agreement with 'em and no one has ever come to the Tribe sayin' "We wanna see, if you give us a percentage of the money that we're gonna make, we'll make us millions." Nobody's ever said that. So when they came forth with this good numbers, that was the split that we decided upon, the Council made a decision and we went forth and, and 25 years was ending but in the meantime, these were people that, uh, took the bold stand, whatever was gonna happen. So I signed a contract and we went at it and, uh, when we opened the doors, the rest of the United States Indians went after it. So I stayed with 'em, honored it and then all of a sudden we have people who are gettin' up, thinkin' they could have done better. But yesterday they didn't think that.
T: Yeah.
CHIEF: Only after they had money in their pocket did they start sayin', "Hey, Tribe should be doing better than this." Yesterday they didn't say that.
Boyd: It's worthwhile mentioning that the original proposal was for the Tribe to get 15%.
CHIEF: Yeah.
Boyd: James changed that around to 55 per cent.
CHIEF: So, uh...
Goldstein: That was an agreement that Howard Tommie had?
CHIEF: Yeah. It was a original agreement.
Goldstein: Did he . . .
CHIEF: Was it 15%? Or 80/20 at least.
Goldstein: (inaudible)
CHIEF: 80/20 at least.
Goldstein: But he never signed it though?
CHIEF: He never signed it. I, uh, God knows why 'cause right after the election he never even came over and shook my hand or said a damn thing and we went at it and never talked to him ever since.
Goldstein: Can I ask a question?
CHIEF: Yeah.
Goldstein: Bob Butterworth says that when he, when you first first ran for office, you ran as, if you will, kind of a reformer, saying that I'm gonna open things up.
CHIEF: Like a drug reformer or what?
Goldstein: No. No. No.
Gallagher: Reform the Seminole system . . .
Goldstein: Yeah, reform the . . . For some reason Bob has an issue with Howard and I don't know what that issue is. Do you?
CHIEF: No. You have to ask Howard that.
Goldstein: Okay.
CHIEF: The only thing I know about Bob Butterworth is uh, soon as the issue come up they were gonna do somethin', he started tryin' to say something so I did something very unethical and showed him -- because he was talking about Mafia and all this thing and, uh, whoever else he was mentionin' -- so I took him my contract and showed him these are the people I'm dealing with and Nick Navarro and Bob Butterworth was there and somewhere in the process Bob says, uh, "You shoulda, you shoulda came to me and let my people do it." So I didn't know if he meant him personally or maybe his Sheriff's Department. I never quite understood what he said. But that's the only thing I remember and from that point on I guess it's history. You can read any papers on that.
Goldstein: What did you . . .
CHIEF: But I did show him, because FBI, we had, we have to have some type of FBI check and then the FBI's gotta do their thing and give us a paper said this is a proven fact, we want to give it to you and all they gotta do is prove to us that they are bad people. Whatever they are, in writing, with their name attached to it, Tribal Council can just let it go. They never produced nothing.
T: You have, uh, over the years, there've been suggestions here, there, uh, Inspector General in his report has suggested that there are problems in the casinos.
CHIEF: But they never produced papers to say anything.
T: Are you satisfied that there has never been any skimming or problems of that sort in the casinos?
CHIEF: That I can't answer 'cause I don't know. As far as I know, my percentage of money has always been comin' to the Tribe. If there's like, it'd be like sitting here asking you (to Testerman)I heard you got a 24 inch dick and yours (to Goldstein) is three inches, so, you know, and I don't believe you anyway.
T: How long, it's not how long it is, it's how wide.
(laughter)
CHIEF: Anyways, but yours (to Testerman) is very narrow. I can tell by the way you walk.
(everyone talking, laughing)
Gallagher: By the way, the Seminoles do have a, they are managing the Hollywood facility.
CHIEF: Oh, let me, let me finish that, let me finish that. You were asking and uh these are some long answers that you're asking for.
T: Okay.
CHIEF: Okay. So time went along, 25 years was coming up and before that time, then, the Pan American came in and, uh, uh, I told them what was my dream. I told them I liked to buy some land off the reservation that's existing, so we bought this land and they let us have it, so we made a split with them and we've been with them for I guess, I guess it's almost ending.
Boyd: g Since 1979, '80 is when it started, so it will be expiring in 2005.
CHIEF: So then I started another one over here and I thought all I was gonna deal with some Indian people and how many chances do you give somebody and the money's drained? So got rid of them and just started on and I told Pan American to help me over there.
T: You mean in Immokalee?
CHIEF: In Immokalee, right. Um, so finally, I don't know how long it was we started buyin out, uh, people kept coming up to me, wantin' to see if they can buy out our company. So I told 'em, well that's none of my business, you gotta go after the management. Money can buy anything, as somebody says, I haven't really seen it do that good yet. So they go over there and they'll attempt and we 've had all kinda, uh, middle people talkin' to us, and go over there and, and talk to Jim Clare or Butch Weisman and say "we will buy you out for this amount" but never could pull through. I guess that was about -- I guess breakin', breakin' point had to have been about five years. After five years I'm on the down scale of ownin' the shop myself, so there's no sense in goin' with anybody else. They're not gonna own it. So every one of 'em went to the wayside and then eventually we came in an agreement with, um, Pan, uh, SMA and SMA, oh gosh, what year was that they kept tryin' to tell SMA they don't have a valid contract? Remember that?
Frank: Seventy, eighty-eight . . .
CHIEF: About 88 or 90 they started changin' the law. See, what they were tryin' to do was get rid of SMA but we started with that business with these people that had the balls enough to join us, or come up with an idea that has made money for us for all their time so I just could not get away from it, so I just told 'em, um, I'm gonna just stick with their handshake, or the Tribal thing -- we had documents on it. And we have honored that even though the United States Government was saying that you don't have a valid contract. They, they didn't even have it in the register, us sayin' that we could do this, yet when they saw that the Indians were startin' to make money at something and whatever allegations they made, they never provided proof to my table. Not one time. They always said, just like, "Hey, you got a big headed dick, that's what you said." I don't know that. But they never put it in print and no, so we just continued on and, um, and then at a particular point something took place and I don't know what it was, they must have felt some other pressures beyond that I didn't understand to the point that they agreed to, we'll buy them out for, which, which actually amounted to how many years it is and we'll start taking over that company and -- oh Christ, not that long ago, within the last year, huh? We actually run the operation.
T: You got some of the same middle or other managers there that were with the old management company?
CHIEF: No. There might be some employees.
T: Have you cleaned house?
CHIEF: We cleaned house but there are employees there that, uh, that really have no bearing on anything except doing their work.
T: Just staff people?
Boyd: g Some employees were retained. The employees that didn't see it the Seminole Tribe's way were let go.
CHIEF: But we still do and I still talk to Butch and everybody. I mean it's just like me and you talkin' and what's the difference? Why can't I talk to you?
T: Yeah.
CHIEF: We see them and sometimes I'll ask him for some advice just to match and see, uh, if they were doing something and check this out to make sure he's not pulling my leg or anything.
T: Do you have a monitoring system or some other safeguard that assures you what you are being told about money is true?
CHIEF: At the beginning, at the beginning that was an expense, way -- I don't know how this monitoring, I mean how did this, uh, what do you call 'em, the, uh, the NIGC is National Indian Gaming.
CHIEF: It seems like every time they come up with a regulation, everything is not broke. It's going good.
T: Yeah.
CHIEF: But it seems like they always try to come up with an idea that will make you spend. Let's say my budget was 90 million dollars, and what they'll do is say "you need to get monitoring system to make sure you're not being ripped off." Say it'll cost me 2-3 million dollars, maybe even 10 million dollars to set it up, so now I'm actually playing with 80 million dollars while I was enjoying my 90 million dollars. So now this dragged on for a long -- now we're accusin' these people that they're a bunch of thieves and, uh, crooks and, uh, whatever else they want to tell 'em. In the meantime, the guys that's doin' up in Washington, whoever else is makin' that decision is making my money shorter just to satisfy that I'm not losing money. So now, uh, we, uh, that we own it ourselves who am I supposed to see that's not cheating? Because they were set up just to make sure that the management company wasn't stealing from us. But now we're the managers, so who do we put the manager?
T: Oh, okay.
CHIEF: But it still is over in Holly -- uh...
T: Tampa.
CHIEF: Tampa, yeah.
Boyd: We have a good surveillance system in place. We have annual audits certified by certified public accountants and we feel we have good control systems in place.
CHIEF: Well, at lot of people that come in and tell us how they run theirs. We talk to people out at Mirage, Caesar's, even Trump'll come in there and give a pointer or two, so they look like . . . I don't know who's investigating them.
Gallagher: But this scenario is no different than almost any other Indian Tribe would have gone through. I mean, very few Indian tribes manage their own casinos even now and if they have, it's just been in the last couple years.
Frank: Past five years.
CHIEF: Well, the only reason why we didn't . . .
Gallagher: . . .so it's a similar situation with most tribes.
CHIEF: The only reason why we didn't operate our own casinos 'cause we, we had an agreement for so many years but once the time got close, hell yes. We're not naive about running it because we tried to run one in up in the Muckleshoot and that didn't go so good, we lost it. It's all because we had some idiot with us. I don't know who it was, but we went through different areas and different tribes with different government formats, totally different from our structures but, uh, but we did have a proving ground that we could run a operation.
T: A couple years ago, 2-3 years ago, uh, some police officers were doing surveillance . . .
CHIEF: Yeah.
T: . . . at the Hollywood casino and compiled quite a bit of surveillance information that suggested very strongly that there were some problems in that casino. There were people hitting jackpots, you know, every day. There were machines being rifled. Uh, there were crooked dealers and, uh, these police officers -- are you aware of, you know, some of this information that they, they put together?
CHIEF: Well, I don't even have any papers to show me that because we have an open communication amongst us. If that was, uh, if that's what was happening, and if those police people are under my control, why didn't they tell me? I didn't hear.
T: We understand that they did tell you.
CHIEF: Did they? Here's a person (looks at Tom Hernan) who stays right with them. So how do you answer that. I don't know.
Boyd: g The officers were trying to do the job that accountants are paid to do. What they thought they saw and what was fact were two different things. If they saw someone walkin' out of a hall with a bag, they assumed that bag was full of money.
T: Yeah.
Boyd: That was not the case. I mean . . .
CHIEF: Yours was conjecture too, because you don't know if that was anything.
T: What about, what about the reports that the police had actual jackpots that were won that did not match up with the actual reports of jackpots as reported by management to the Tribe?
Boyd: I don't know the specifics of that but . . . .
T: Are you aware of it?
Boyd: . . . I doubt the credibility of it.
CHIEF: I would like to see the paperwork. So we can match it up. So when you ask it. It's one of the things . . .
Boyd: Without seeing the facts, I couldn't comment on it
CHIEF: . . .Yours is real big and I say it's not. So I don't know how to answer that.
T: Okay.
CHIEF: But I'm not aware...
T: You're not aware...
CHIEF: I'm not aware of any -- if there's some discrepancies or why didn'ts, because in my office, we came right forward -- we're not, we're not shy about it, Just like I am, I'm not shy about telling you what you look like and I'm pretty sure you're the same way, so nobody came forth and said "This is happening, let's get 'em." My police didn't say that. But I didn't trust a certain amount of my police after a while neither.
T: Is that why eight of 'em got fired?
CHIEF: Uh, I don't know, what did we do to them, Tom?
Hernan: What's that?
CHIEF: He's asking me a question. That's in his department.
T: There were eight police officers that were dismissed, uh, who had been involved in, uh, the surveillance that we're talkin' about. And they believed, uh, I think, that they had come up with information that looked like there were crooked things goin' on in the casino . . .
CHIEF: If they've got paper . . .
T: . . . when they brought it forward, they ended up being dismissed. They were, uh, out of a job.
CHIEF: I don't ever remember saying about this.
Hernan: I think that was a perception in their mind
T: Were they all dismissed for a reason?
Hernan: There was a large reduction in our police department
T: And were those officers, uh, never replaced?
Hernan: No.
T: They were never, uh, it was just a, uh, a reduction in the force?
Hernan: The amount we have today is, uh, quite a bit still under the, uh, probably a little bit above the amount that we reduced
T: Have you been...
Hernan: It just so happened that those officers were in, uh whichever ones you're talkin' about happened to be in the group . . .
T: Has the Tribe been in negotiations with those officers concerning a wrongful dismissal?
CHIEF: Uh, you better leave that alone because if it's in some sort of legality, it's . . .
Gallagher: It's a legal action.
CHIEF: It's a legal act, so leave that alone.
Goldstein: Who took their place at the Hollywood facility?
CHIEF: What's that?
Goldstein: I'm just curious, who took their place at the Hollywood facility?
CHIEF: We got the security now.
Boyd: g We've got the security guards in place there and . . .
T: Yes.
T: A private company?
Boyd: g No, Tribal security guards.
T: Uh, actual Tribal members?
CHIEF: Yeah.
Boyd: g: Some of them are Tribal members. The head of the security operation is a Tribal member . . .
Hernan: Law enforcement.
CHIEF: I probably could rattle on a little bit more on that but if they got it under litigation it's no use even tryin' to elaborate. You're screwin' around with my, uh, legal system now.
T: Have, uh, do, uh, at the casinos do any of, any of the Tribal, I think you just said one, I'm not sure. Any Tribal, uh, member companies have, uh, contracts with the casinos?
Goldstein: Service contracts like cleaning, uh, vending, uh . . .
CHIEF: I think we have some, I'm not sure.
T: (To Boyd) A Tribal member has the concessions contract.
CHIEF: I know over in, uh, Tampa I think I seen where somebody was attempting a new field, instead of working into the migrant field like migrant work, they were startin' get into cleaning but I'm not sure.
T: (To Boyd) Did you have a bookkeeping or accounting contract at SMA?
Boyd: Yes.
T: Bookkeeping and books at SMA? At the same time you were -- at the same time you were doing books for the Tribe?
Boyd: (inaudible)
T: Which master did you serve at the time?
Boyd: I serve James Billie. James Billie told me to do it. He wanted to, uh, wanted me to keep a watch on them and this was one way to do that
T: The Wisemans didn't mind havin' you in there, knowing you were working for James Billie?
Boyd: They didn't seem to mind.
Goldstein: Uh, uh, I'm confused. Wait a second. I'm sorry, I must be slow, I . . .
Gallagher: Is this part of the questions that you put in originally? This area . . .
T: I asked about contracts, uh, you know, and . . .
Gallagher: I'm just saying, if you want to get through all of these, you're bringing up new things. Wait till the end to get it . . .
T: Sound like you don't want us to ask that question, do you?
Gallagher: No, no. I'm just tryin' to find it in here. That's what I'm tryin' to say.
T: You don't want us to ask that question?
Gallagher: Well, it's not up to me, but I . . .
CHIEF: You got question, we'll answer it. You answer it and I can make an answer to one that says no . . .
T: There you go. Yes. No. (Inaudible)
CHIEF: I mean there's some in there I'd like to answer so it don't matter.
T: Alright. Uh . . .
CHIEF: I still wanna see that thing whipped out so I can see if that dick is that big . I don't believe it.
(laughter)
Goldstein: No mine's the three inch. His is the uh . . .
(inaudible, laughter)
Gallagher: Don't believe it Chief, I can tell you some old locker room tales about him.
T: You probably already heard I was a star, Chief, so . . .
CHIEF: Say I want to see it. Go ahead. Go ahead.
T: : Honest to God, typically I like to show mine off (inaudible)
(all talking at once).
CHIEF: It won't bother me. Whip it out.
T: Uh, we drew on some statistics. the question, as you well know.
CHIEF: What's that?
T: We called the federal government. We tried to get some statistics to try to understand what, uh, the social situation was at the Seminole Tribe . . ..
CHIEF: Okay.
T: . . .knowing full well we'd ask you about it later on.
CHIEF: Yeah.
T: Uh, some of the latest statistics show a very high unemployment rate on the Tribe. Uh, and, uh . . .
CHIEF: What statistic would that be?
Goldstein: (inaudible)
CHIEF: Huh?
Goldstein: BIA.
CHIEF: What year? Let's get some years so I'll know.
T: I think I got the latest we could get.
Goldstein: . . . which was '93.
CHIEF: And what kinda high figure was that?
Boyd: That sounds more like 1893 than 1993.
T: Do you know what it is?
CHIEF: No, I don't.
T: Do you have any information on that?
Goldstein: Thirty percent you don't think gibes?
CHIEF: That, that's a lotta people. Let's see, there's about 2400 members in our Tribe and about 50% of 'em is children supposed to be in school or under the age of 18, so 17 years old on down, so that'd be 1100, maybe 1200.
Gallagher: Then there's elderly . . .
CHIEF: Yeah, but that goes under the other bracket, under the other. So, uh, let's say 12,12, twelve hundred, so that leaves about a couple hundred elderly people. So that leaves you with about a thousand human beings and out of the thousand human beings there must be a, um, maybe a hundred that's really -- I don't know how you're gonna give 'em a job because they could be unfit to have a job because they're handicapped, they're, uh, in the fashion. You can be handicapped and work but you can be handicapped and can't do a damned thing.
Goldstein: Yeah.
CHIEF: So there's probably a hundred of those and that leaves us with about 900. And out of the 900 how many Tribe hire?
Boyd: The Tribe probably employs about 700 or 800.
CHIEF: Quite a few. So that leaves about a hundred people or so that might be, uh, some type of problem type of people, I don't know.
T: It sounds like out of your work force it might be closer to 20%.
CHIEF: I don't know.
T: Of which ten percent would be hardcore unemployed . . .
CHIEF: I'm not quite as smart as you are on the numbers, but I just know the numbers that I have, how many people that -- but if you want to put it in a ratio, you know, you can . . .
T: Yeah. Okay.
Gallagher: But is employment people that can't get jobs or people that don't want jobs? Almost anyone that wants a job can get a job.
Goldstein: I think BIA has a strict category.
CHIEF: They have a strict category but their's is kind off once in a while 'cause they're tryin' to make everybody your color. I'm not your color. So how they make that standard, I don't know. But I'm actually talkin' actual numbers that I know about. But it, in the entire Seminole Tribe we must hire pretty close to 6,000 people, 5,000 people.
Boyd: About 4500.
CHIEF: And if a Tribal member wanted a job, he can get his butt over there and get a job.
Gallagher: (inaudible)
CHIEF: Huh?
Gallagher: (inaudible)
CHIEF: Yeah, so there's, there's more people that work for us than there is members of the Tribe. So, uh, if a Tribal member wanted to go over there and work, he likes that atmosphere. I don't like bein' inside of the gaming hall, it's just not my forte. I'd rather be sittin' here bullshittin' with you. So . . .
T: Along the same lines, there's, uh, a number of children, Seminole children are in the free lunch program, that means that they...
CHIEF: Yeah.
T: . . .meet a standard of poverty.
CHIEF: I saw that. Uh, I think, I think you're talkin' about $1,100 worth. At Ahfachkee day school, uh, I forgot how many people -- there's about a hundred people that go to that school, less than a hundred. Maybe, it might be less than a hundred now. Several years back...
T: Well...
CHIEF: Let me finish my story.
T: Okay.
CHIEF: Several years back they were, they could have applied because I think, when did we start givin' thousand dollars? You have to remember this hundred and, this hundred and, uh, some-odd million dollars we make belongs to the Tribal government, not to me personally or not to anybody else. It belongs to the government. We have the five elected officials decide how much goes to this and that, almost like your Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam's got all these billions and trillions of dollars. I don't see you goin' over there tryin' to harp on his ass. So we as a nation, as a government, uh, the government makes so much money, then we put so much money aside for each individual person. So with that, how much of that am I supposed to make, make my people off welfare? So we started givin' out this thing called revenue distribution and we had to be careful again 'cause now here's a person that probably, and this is really getting' bold now, uh, let's say some of 'em never paid income taxes before because they don't know what it is and pretty soon we start putting him in this category that he's making income and he's gotta report because it's not, uh, it's taxable now. So things go on like that, so we -- I was tryin' to check this all out to see how far could we go, uh, that these lands that belongs to all of us can give out a little windfall profit to each individual person. Before we got to it, uh, some members of our Council decided to give it out. Now they have to start payin' taxes on it, so I think, I don't know, of the whole thing, probably two years ago, maybe a year ago, there's a thousand dollar shot. That was a very bold stand for us to give somebody a thousand dollars profit per month. Now income tax, uh, I think Uncle Sam takes about $400 worth. (To Boyd) Am I correct?
Boyd: Yeah, around $400.
CHIEF: So when we, uh, go to $2,000 -- oh, so at that time they, uh, anybody that was considered making this extra income was right at the borderline of not receiving, 'cause we had people that were on, uh, Social Security. We had people that was on welfare and once they hit that thousand dollar, $1,200 a year, $12,000 a year, next thing you know, they're out of it. They can't have it anymore. School kids, they, the reason we might still get some more is not everybody, Tribal member goes to that school. We've got some Choctaw. We've got some non-Indian -- what you call Caucasian people -- that go there, uh, that do not fit into any category of what you might think it would be. The Seminole kids now, I think they just started July, they picked up the second check, meaning they're making $24,000 a year per capita payment but income tax takes it but they're now well over it, so now the Tribe is now looking at itself -- okay, uh, we, I don't think we fit into any, uh, poverty programs anymore, including HUD, so all those things are being looked at right now to see what's taking place. But before I could explain to the people, the people just jumped into it, so that makes life easier for me. They just feel it and know what's happening to 'em now.
T: In other words right now the income . . .
CHIEF: Yeah, right now there's nobody...
T: . . . the Tribal member makes, no one should be receiving federal aid?
CHIEF: With the dividend that they're making now, I don't care what else, I don't know what they make on the outside, but just with the dividend they're making about $24,000 a year, $2,000 a month, so nobody is in what you call poverty anymore. So now, if a family of six and the children are all, all under 17 years old, that's a pretty good, healthy lump sum a month.
T: You mentioned HUD, and . . .
CHIEF: Yeah.
T: . . . recently, uh, HUD took a look at the housing program, uh, the rent to purchase and the renter's assistance program on the reservation.
CHIEF: I think across the United States.
T: Indeed they did, but we're . . .
CHIEF: Yeah.
T: . . . respective to Seminoles.
CHIEF: And we were one of 'em.
T: Yeah. They found, uh, a number of problems uh, in an audit. They found, uh, chiefly they found that the Seminole Housing Authority had not counted the income, the dividends that the Tribal members had been receiving, toward allowing assistance. In other words, Tribal members who were not actually qualified for federal assistance in housing were getting it. Uh, they were only counting the, the head of the household's dividend income, which makes a big difference if you're only counting dad instead of dad and mom or kid or whatever, makes a big difference. Do you know, uh, what has been done to remedy . . .
CHIEF: Mmmm.
T: . . . the situation?
CHIEF: That's why I brought Joel, he's in charge of it, was. Was. Now it's all under the Tribe. They, they eliminated HUD as of October 1st, it's under my wing now.
T: Okay.
Frank: First of all, they did eliminate Housing Authority. The new law that, Clinton signed into law last year -- and it says, it puts housing authorities or housing entities under the control of the Tribe where it never was before (inaudible). To answer your questions, uh, more specifically, I had the audit done. With the Freedom of Information Act that you've been asking for you'll see one of my letters asking to come in and do an audit . . .
T: We didn't, we didn't really get everything we asked for. We did get the audit, though.
Frank: . . .(inaudible) to see where we're at, and what needs to be done.uh They'll come in and "It looks all right" But I asked them to specifically look at our programs, uh . . .
T: They found quite a number of problems. They found 14 or 15 problems.
Frank: Some of them were corrected immediately, but as far as the, they asked for a management plan which we submitted to them, which we are following now and, uh, from there the recertification I think which we are more specifically addressing. That's being done. All of those issues are taken care of. But one specific area, over income, under the program, under their guidelines approximately 20% of the people that had been selected for the units were found to be, uh, over the, uh, over the, they were found to be overqualified . . .
T: Do you know how many units that would add up to?
Frank: Uh, 20%, we're talking about 17.
T: 17?
Frank: 17.
CHIEF: Gosh, that's devastating in the United States, isn't it? It'll make Uncle Sam fall on his face.
Frank: Uh, 17 out of 40, 48 . . .
CHIEF: Is it 17 units?
Frank: 17 families.
CHIEF: 17 families? Yeah. That would break the government's back.
Frank: Yeah, it's 17 families. Uh . . .
T: Chief, might be a poor family that needs that money.
CHIEF: Do you know some?
T: Yeah.
CHIEF: Well, let us know. I'll go use your money to go pay for it. But you're talkin' about a situation where these things just came into light just recently, so get your head outta your ass and don't talk to me in that fashion. I came here to talk to you on my free will. You're not even paying my expenses. Okay? I'm tryin' to help you out so you can look good.
Frank: So as far as that goes, you're talkin' about 17 families and what the Tribe is attempting to do, now that they have taken over the housing program is to, uh, find alternative financing because we can't get banks -- since it's federal trust lands, banks don't normally give loans to individuals for homes on the Indian reservation. So it has always been that case and that's why the federal government has always stepped in to provide assistance (inaudible) on the Reservation. Congress did pass a law two years ago trying to set up a loan guarantee program for people who are over income. But uh banks have not caught on yet. So there is still a ways to go. We got to go through an education process for banks to start giving loans to individual members, and hopefully they'll do that soon.. That way we wouldn't have that scenario. (inaudible)
T: Thanks.
Frank: Okay.
T: How long you been head of the Housing authority? housing facility?
Frank: Uh, since January of (inaudible) . . .
Editor: Just curious, why this year did you ask for the audit after that amount of time in office? Is there something that triggered that idea?
Frank: Well, I asked for it over a year ago.
Editor: Oh, did you? Did you have a feeling that there might be some problems?
Frank: No, as a good manager, I think that, you know, even though a program is running good, you know, you want to make sure you can do a better job and make improvements . . .
CHIEF: I think, I think the kicker was the Tribe was startin' to give out higher dividends and it was gonna throw people out of, out of income brackets as far, so we try to stay ahead of that but sometimes the councilmen will make a decision faster than we can stay up on our own investigations . . . or trying to remedy a problem.
T: We talked to, uh, somebody that once was an official of your Head Start program. She said she was fired because she, uh, refused to sign a fraudulent application for federal funds.
CHIEF: That I don't know about.
Gallagher: Can you give us her name? Is she gonna be quoted in the story, or . . . ?
T: Her name is Norse.
Gallagher: Norse?
CHIEF: We've had a lotta gals, and it's gonna be, we'd have to ask whose in charge of that program to give you that. But I think that sounds, almost the time when all these changes, revenue changes was taking place and I'm not quite sure-- if I saw the person I might know 'em. But like I say, we got quite a few people.
T: We, uh, understand that there was a report done on, uh, the Seminole princess . . .
CHIEF: Oh, let me ask you a, one question . . .
T: Okay.
CHIEF: She was saying that I told her to sign a . . .
T: No, she didn't say you. She said she was instructed. I'm not sure who told her . . .
CHIEF: Okay. Then she has to be specific what she said, because I don't know, because when we catch people like that we behead 'em immediately. Terminate 'em or something. We're not shy about it and that's why you say people's askin' 'cause they were fired. If they were doin' their job or well, or somethin', they'd still be here. I'm not quite sure what it would be.
T: Uh, with respect to Seminole Princess, you mentioned earlier . . .
CHIEF: Seminole Princess?
Gallagher: Empress.
T: Er, Empress, I'm sorry.
CHIEF: Okay, I started to say, "Yeah I think she's a very nice girl."
(laughter)
T: Uh, we uh understand there was report done by a company out in San Francisco that said the ship was unseaworthy. That the investment in it was not good, that this report was given to Tribal Council members and that Tribal council members essentially covered it up, uh, in order to avoid embarrassment.
CHIEF: (To Boyd) Know anything about it?
Boyd: Yeah, the boat we are currently negotiating to buy is different than the one that they reviewed. This thing is still evolving. We're in the midst of negotiations but, uh, we've never had a ownership interest in that boat. Our money was never at risk from a standpoint of having ownership . . .
T: Have you lost money on the ship?
Boyd: It's still in the developmental stages. We have no ownership. That ship that you are speaking of, we have no ownership interest in that ship. We have not lost money.
T: You have a lease situation though, with uh, uh, the ship in St. Petersburg.
Boyd: Not regarding that ship. The Royal. We're negotiating to have an ownership interest in the Royal.
CHIEF: Which ship was it that they said was, uh, sinking?
Goldstein: No, they said that two of the three boats were unseaworthy.
CHIEF: Which ones that?
Goldstein: Uh, I think they're the ferry boats. The, uh . . .
CHIEF: Okay. The ones that's docked out there?
Goldstein: Right, they're sitting in the dock.
Boyd: They were in dry dock. Of course they were not seaworthy . They have to pass all the uh specifications.
CHIEF: How long ago was some of your, what you call it, your questioning? Within the last 20 days? Or thousand days? Or how long ago?
Gallagher: When was that report done?
CHIEF: Okay. Because we don't sit in one, one spot all day long 'cause things move so, yeah, we sound sort of irritated with some of the things, might have been patched over or something, I'm not sure, but I've never heard that question before. Because I send out the negotiating team instead of myself once in awhile.
T: We've been told about a loan program that's run by a, uh, a widow of Fred Smith, Ellen Click Smith..
CHIEF: Oh, God. I was hoping you'd never ask that question. Shit.
(laughing)
T: We've been told that, uh, it's been described to us as a loan sharking operation.
CHIEF: So does a lot of other Tribal members. They all been bitching and groaning. I've never quite understood that neither because now, tell me, if I'm supposed to know everything, so tell me if I'm correct. But let me answer. That's funny because we've heard that all our lives over here. There was a sewing program and she, this lady, is in charge of something called CAA. Community Action Something.. Well, anyway, but she had this sewing program and I remember, uh, my former mother-in-law, she used to, uh, sew things almost like on a consignment to people who knew how to work -- they take her things over there and she'd have it all in the office. People that come in, they would buy and when they made something they would put it into this account. And this account developed, they got the money back and they make their money. Then next thing I know there's like a lending situation because there was X number of monies being developed. I think she paid 'em their share, their, whatever they were supposed to pay for a jacket if (inaudible) the profit went into this other fund. And the fund got large enough where she started lending money out of it and that thing, it has, always been a question. The reason its still there is because it's highly political in that area. Fred Smith was a very powerful political person and their family kind of run the Tribe over there and it just so happens that Ellen Click happens to be the wife of that very powerful political person. So nobody ever touched it.

(Tape ends)

Continue to Tape 2