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Council invalidates petitions

Observer Staff

7/5/2005 12:00:00 AM

Due to an inadequate number of valid signatures, the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Council dismissed five recall petitions on April 28.

Their action overturned the Tribal Clerk's findings on April 11 after a review of his administrative record and the submitted petitions on April 15.

"The petitions did not have enough valid signatures," stated District 3 Representative Michele Stanley. "In some instances, individuals signed more than once or did not sign at all. Also, a great deal of information required on the petitions was incomplete."

She reviewed the five petitions-levied against Chief Audrey Falcon, Sub-Chief Bernie Sprague, Treasurer Charmaine Benz, Secretary Ruth Moses and District 1 Representative Brent Jackson-with District 1 Representative Federico Cantu.

During the review proceeding, each Tribal Council member who was the subject of the petition being reviewed was recused from the meeting as required in Ordinance No. 4.

District 1 Tribal Council Representatives Brenda Champlin and Diana Quigno-Grundahl voted against overturning the Sprague, Falcon and Moses petitions. Champlin also cast the lone dissenting vote with the Benz, Moses and Jackson petitions. Quigno-Grundahl was not in the meeting during the vote on the Benz petition with Moses abstaining. Quigno-Grundahl abstained from voting on the Jackson petition. The only Tribal Council member absent from the meeting was District 2 Representative LeEtta Hansen.

"In its review, the Tribal Council found that the Tribal Clerk had improperly counted many signatures that were not in compliance with the requirements of Ordinance 4," stated Falcon. "Council is very disturbed by the amount of errors and inconsistencies contained in the petitions. It is equally disturbing that the Tribal Clerk failed to identify many of these problems during his review of the petitions."

The ordinance-which governs Tribal elections-has several requirements for "the following information handwritten in ink" by each petitioner. That includes the printed name of the petitioner; their signature; the date they signed the petition; their Tribal membership number and the residential address of the petitioner. A post office box number is not valid as a residential address.

Ordinance No. 4 provides that if a petitioner fails to provide complete, accurate and legible information for each of the five categories of required information, their signatures will be invalid and will not be counted.

Petition organizer Patricia Peters said that Tribal Council "did a good hacking job in deleting the amount of valid signatures."

"Those who signed the petitions should be encouraged by the fact that we are planning on filing a lawsuit over Tribal Council's recent actions," said Peters.

According to Tribal law, petitions need to have valid signatures of at least 30 percent of the registered voters who reside in the voting district represented by the council member who is subject of the petition.

As of April 4, there were 769 registered voters in District 1. The Tribal Clerk established 231 as being 30 percent of 769. Signatures validated by the Tribal Clerk's Office included: Falcon, 255; Sprague, 274; Benz, 265; Moses, 275; and Jackson 292.

Council's review found the following number of valid signatures: Falcon, 146, Sprague, 143; Benz, 152; Moses, 144; and Jackson, 151.

Peters has maintained after a recall is validated by the Tribal Clerk, an election should be called within 30 days, based on Constitutional provisions. She also said the membership should be troubled over Tribal Council's actions.

"It should appear odd to the membership that recall effort after recall effort is being quashed," said Peters. "They fail to understand the will of the people."

According to the Saginaw Chippewa Appellate Court, the Tribal Council may review the Clerk's findings and if they find the petitions are not procedurally valid, then the process comes to an end and is subject only to court review.

The Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Council rendered their decision regarding the five recall petitions by an April 29 deadline, according to Tribal law.

Their actions were in response to the petitioners' claim that Tribal Council needed to act on the petitions by an April 26 deadline-14 days after the Tribal Clerk verified their validity as to the number of signatures contained on them.

Falcon dismissed their interpretations of Tribal law and said Council is well within their right of establishing April 29 as the determination deadline.

"Tribal Council is aware that it is the opinion of some individuals that the review period begins when the Tribal Clerk's determination is made even though the Tribal Clerk failed to provide the Tribal Council with any petitions or administrative record to review," said Falcon. "This interpretation would render the exclusive review by the Tribal Council under the ordinance meaningless because it would force the Tribal Council to conduct a review without anything to review. This obviously cannot be a proper interpretation of the ordinance."

Falcon added that Tribal Council initiated its review of the Tribal Clerk's determination, including the recall petitions, on April 15-the same day the petitions were provided to Tribal Council by the Tribal Clerk.

Council's actions come on the heels of an April 26 decision by the Saginaw Chippewa Appellate Court stating the Tribal Council does have a right to review the Tribal Clerk's findings regarding the number of valid signatures contained on the removal petitions.