Dear Tribal Members,
I hope this update finds you in good health and high spirits. In an effort to be transparent, I wanted to share information about ethics charges, proposed agenda items, and recent events affecting all of us.
On or about August 29, Richard Swan filed ethics charges against me requesting expulsion, which primarily relates to actions before I was elected with few details. His complaint was one and a half pages with no attachments. Swan’s complaint was based at least in part on a legal opinion from an outside attorney with possible conflicts. Although I have some answers now, when Swan filed I wondered how Swan obtained a legal opinion from an outside attorney within 2 weeks of swearing in, who gave him that attorney’s contact info, whether this was a single council directive against another CBC, what was ORA’s role, and why Swan sat on that opinion for four weeks if it was as severe as he claimed. Lead ORA was conflicted out, but ORA assisted regardless. On September 10, the Rules Committee met on Swan’s complaint (despite several CBC absent) and the majority voted to set a hearing without investigation for October 1. During the hearing on 9/10, I submitted ethics charges against Swan and Joel Boyd.
ORA failed to serve me for a full week until 9/17. Swan was the only witness. Marvin Kheel as Rules Chair signed 3 subpoenas and I was served by email on 9/24, which failed to provide the required 10 days’ notice per the tribal code. The Rules Committee is defined by the Code as the full CBC. The subpoenas were invalid and untimely.
On 9/24, I went to ORA to correct info about my unavailability since I did not attend ATNI but CBC staff misinformed them. I also asked to see Lead ORA. Another ORA attorney was covering the front desk. Lead came out and answered 3 questions. ORA attorney withdrew by emailing Chairman Cawston alleging I committed misconduct, and another ORA attorney was assigned to the Rules Committee on 9/24.
On 10/1, family and community members arrived and were told they could not come into council chambers and efforts were made to remove them from the council office. Someone notified tribal police and security, and 4 officers and 2 security guards forced elders and members to leave despite my waiver of a closed session. Despite having permission to stay in my office, my elderly parents and grandmother were forced out of my office by a police officer, even though other elders were allowed to sit in a different office. At the outset of the hearing, I was handed over 200 pages of documents with no opportunity to review. For just over an hour, Swan and I participated in the hearing but were excused about 10:30. There were no established procedures during the hearing.
Despite a written motion outlining Swan, Boyd’s and Jack Ferguson’s conflicts of interest, Boyd and Ferguson voted against me on 10/1 to move forward with the ethics hearing for expulsion. The tribal code allows CBC members to be disqualified if they are unable to impartial. Ferguson is named in my pending lawsuit filed 19 months ago. Despite 2 of the 3 voting, Swan’s charges failed. No press release was issued.
The following day, the executive committee met for the first time since the transition of new CBC. Per CBC Policies and Procedures, committee agendas must be written and distributed to all CBC at least 2 days in advance. CBC P&P also require meeting minutes from committees within 3 working days, a recording secretary at each meeting, and copies of the minutes to CBC, staff, and public. The Chairman directed staff not to release the agenda or minutes to me, no recording secretary was present for the whole meeting, and ORA advised the committee. Under CBC P&P, the main purpose of the e-committee is to coordinate council committee assignments to assure appropriate distribution of work and provide oversight of the committees. Despite identified conflicts, Swan and Ferguson voted to send the ORA attorney’s email to Kheel for investigation under CTC 1-8.
Prior ethics charges have been dismissed because they failed to strictly conform to the code. The ORA email was not an ethics charge, nor did it satisfy the code requirements. Although the e-committee failed to read out letters during special session in recent years, the Chairman read out the letter even though it was not included in the agenda and was not formal action. The Chairman’s read out was live-streamed and is publicly available.
On October 9, I received a written letter from Ferguson as “Acting Chair” for the Rules Committee that he dismissed my ethics charges against Boyd and Swan. Tribal Code requires that the Rules Committee Chair decides “whether there are sufficient facts alleged which, if true, would support a finding of unethical conduct.” This is a low threshold and the tribal code does not allow an Acting Chair, Vice-Chair, or designee to make that decision. ORA assisted with the dismissal letter. My complaint was 17 pages with a 2” thick folder of attachments. I do not accept Ferguson’s letter as valid since it failed to comply with the tribal code, he has a clear conflict of interest, and ORA should not have assisted due to conflicts of interest.
Some CBC were upset with the bad press they received by mistreating our elders, and questions were raised when all 4 of my agenda requests were removed from the tribal government committee for election reform, enrollment reform, a forensic audit, and changing the general membership meeting back to Saturday. Bad press or hard feelings shouldn’t result in ethics charges. Call or email me with questions or concerns.