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Gaming Corp. fires Snyder's chief ally Shah dismissed on board's last day

The board of the Seneca Gaming Corp., replaced last week by the Tribal Council at the urging of Seneca President Barry E. Snyder Sr., took a parting shot at Snyder on Thursday in its last official day in office and formally fired Snyder's chief ally at Seneca Gaming, Rajat Shah, the $750,000-a-year general counsel.

Gaming board chairman Cochise Redeye last week fired Shah, but Redeye said the vote was made official by a full vote of the board, which Redeye called into emergency session.

Redeye, in his final day as chairman before his term expired at midnight Thursday, said he welcomed Snyder's call for an investigation into the corruption Redeye said he found at Seneca Gaming.

"I don't have any problem with calling the FBI in and seeing what they have to say," said Redeye, a retired Erie County Sheriff's detective.

Snyder made the call for an investigation in a letter he sent to Kevin Seneca, chairman of Seneca Gaming's audit committee, and one of two members who remained on the board because their terms had not expired. Jeffrey Gill, another retired Sheriff's deputy, also remained on the board.

Snyder's letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Buffalo News, referred to Redeye's comment last week in The News: "I said when I was appointed chairman that I was going to clean up the corruption, and that's what I did."

Snyder, removed as chairman of Seneca Gaming by the board six months ago, said if there were any corruption at the gambling operations, then Redeye should have reported it to Kevin Seneca, the audit chairman.

Snyder also said in the letter that, as Seneca Nation president, he was asking for an investigation by the audit committee into Redeye's charges and that outside legal counsel should be appointed.

Redeye said that before the meeting began Thursday, Kevin Seneca appeared and said the meeting was illegal, that there was no emergency, and that anything on the agenda could be handled by the new board.

"Kevin was carrying the water of the president (Snyder) to try to stop the meeting," Redeye said.

Snyder had written to each of the old board members to inform them that they were members of a "caretaker" board and they were not to make any material decisions in their final days in office.

Redeye said he called the meeting to order anyway, that a quorum was present along with what he said were eight or nine tribal councilors watching the proceedings, and that the board took two actions:

The firing of Rajat Shah. Under Seneca Gaming regulations, Redeye said, any attempt by the new board to reappoint Shah will have to wait six months.

The indemnification of Seneca Gaming employees named in a recent violation by the Seneca Gaming Authority, the regulatory agency overseeing the casinos. The action means that Seneca Gaming will defend the employees.

Redeye said the old board will file Shah's firing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees the gambling operations because it borrowed $500 million to finance its casinos.

In a letter to the incoming board, Redeye praised Catherine Walker as a potential choice for permanent chief executive officer, based on her performance.

email: mbeebe@buffnews.com

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