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Blackbear 11-29-2005 03:56 PM

Oneida Nation Sues Oneida City
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_http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=15634878&BRD=1709&PAG=461&dept_id= 6

Oneida Nation Sues Oneida City

By: ANDREW BROWN, Dispatch Staff Writer

City officials had notified the Nation that if property taxes plus interest
and penalties on 45 Nation properties are not paid by either Nov. 30 or Dec.
1 - depending on the parcel - the city will transfer ownership of the
property from the Nation to the city, according to the lawsuit.
Oneida City Attorney Justin Murphy said the city began to pursue tax payments
from the Nation after the Supreme Court ruling in March, which declared that
Nation property within the City of Sherrill was not exempt from local
"Once this decision came through earlier this year, that led the city to
believe that the property was taxable and that the city was within its rights to
pursue enforcement of the delinquent taxes," Murphy said. "And so we've just
followed the procedure with respect to those properties that we would follow
for any other delinquent property owner."
The Nation does not believe it falls into the category of "any other
delinquent property owner," though. In the lawsuit, which was filed in federal
court, Nation attorneys cited the U.S. Constitution, the 1794 Treaty of
Canandaigua and federal common law as protecting Nation land from foreclosure.
Nation land within the city, the lawsuit states, is within the boundaries of
the Oneida reservation acknowledged in the Treaty of Canandaigua.
Friday's lawsuit is the third the Nation has filed against local governments
to prevent them from foreclosing on their land. In October, U.S. District
Judge David Hurd ruled that Madison County cannot foreclose on Nation land. The
Nation has filed a lawsuit to prevent Oneida County from foreclosing on its
land, as well.
Nation spokesperson Mark Emery said the Nation is trying to work out a deal
with the City of Oneida. After the Nation signed a compact in which they
agreed to pay the City of Sherrill about $60,000 in back property taxes, it
offered to make a similar deal with the City of Oneida. No compact was ever
completed, though.
"The Nation continues to try to negotiate an agreement with the City of
Oneida," Emery said. "Since there has been no action by the city, the Nation had
to pursue a different legal remedy to prevent foreclosure."
Murphy said he is not sure how much the Nation owes in property taxes, but
other newspapers have estimated that the total is more than $900,000.
Prior to the lawsuit being filed on Friday, the Nation attempted to get an
extension from the city until after its lawsuits with Madison and Oneida
counties were resolved. Murphy said the city was unable to grant the extension
because there was no way to set another date.
"The difficulty that we had with the city was that it was just indefinite,
wide open, it wasn't any date that we could predict," Murphy said.
According to the lawsuit, the city sent the Nation notices that its land
would be foreclosed upon in September and October 2005. Nation attorneys argue
in the lawsuit that this violates the normal two-year notification process, and
did not give the Nation sufficient time to respond.
Typically, Murphy said, property for which there is tax owed is listed in a
legal notice in a publication two years before the foreclosure process begins.
He said Nation properties had been listed in this manner in the past, but he
was not sure if all the properties included in the lawsuit were listed.
As for the city's response to the lawsuit, Murphy said he is still working on
"These papers were just recently received, and it's fairly complex so I have
to read through them and discuss it," Murphy said.
The parties are due in U.S. Northern District Court in Utica on Dec. 1.

ŠThe Oneida Daily Dispatch 2005

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