AKWESASNE – The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council announced that it has filed a U.S. District Court action against Franklin County officials to stop the unauthorized collection by the county of Vehicle Use taxes that have been collected for at least a decade. The lawsuit cites numerous instances going back over the last ten years where the Tribe has complained about the tax assessments and formally requested action by the county to cease its collection.
The tax in question assesses a fee of $20.00 per vehicle as a use tax and is collected every two years. In 1993 in a case involving the Sac and Fox Nation from Oklahoma, the U.S. Supreme Court specifically ruled that such taxes are not lawful when levied against tribal members who live and garage their vehicles on their reservation lands.
Despite repeated efforts and requests from the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, Franklin County has taken no action. Tribal Chief Michael Conners stated that “enough is enough, we can’t wait for the county to do this on its own when this is taking money from our members”.
In its complaint the Tribe is asking for the recovery and refund of approximately $500,000 owed to its members for unlawful collection covering the last 10 years. “We could probably go back further” stated Chief Ron LaFrance “but that is the date when our records show that our legal counsel first brought this to the county’s attention.”
Chief Beverly Cook added that “the fee of $20 may seem small and insignificant, but the payments add up over time and no one – especially our tribal members, should be forced to pay a fee that is not required.”
General Counsel Dale White stated that “the county has had every opportunity to provide an exemption but, for whatever reason, has chosen not to do so.” He added “we were forced to take this action.”