Share This:

Signature requirement met on Council recall petitions

Scott Csernyik

7/5/2005 12:00:00 AM

Recall petitions concerning five Tribal Council members representing District 1 were determined by the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Clerk on April 11 to be valid as to the numbers of signatures contained on them.

The recall effort targets Chief Audrey Falcon, Sub-Chief Bernie Sprague, Secretary Ruth Moses, Treasurer Charmaine Benz and Sergeant-At-Arms Brent Jackson.

"The five recall petitions have enough valid signatures and meet the requirements of Ordinance No. 4," stated Tribal Clerk Darryl Jackson.

Reasons for all five recalls included:

"Misconduct and dishonesty in office by squandering Tribal monies on consultants, attorneys, political donations, Proposal 1, McCain investigation, hand-picked new members, failure to uphold Section 14(b) removal petitions of the Tribal Constitution, violating three council members' First Amendment rights. Neglect of duty by failure to uphold Ordinance 19(3-a) by not acting in the best interest of the Tribe at all times, 19 (3-d) not placing the interest of Tribal members above any personal interest at all times, no accountability of the money spent, we want an audit."

According to Ordinance No. 4, petitions need to have 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. The petitions were taken out by Delores Jackson, Velma Lytle-Keyser, Jeanette Leaureaux and Patricia Peters on Feb. 9 and returned on April 4.

As of April 4, there were 769 registered voters in District 1. Jackson's office established 231 as being 30 percent of 769. Signatures on the individual petitions included: Falcon, 255; Sprague, 274; Moses, 275; Benz, 265; Jackson, 253. Peters has stated in an April 12 press release that the following signatures in total were collected: Falcon, 295; Sprague, 307; Benz, 298; Moses, 275; and Brent Jackson, 292.

Peters has maintained after a recall is validated by the Tribal Clerk, an election should be called within 30 days based on provisions of Section 14 of the Amended Constitution and By-Laws of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.

"There are no provisions in the Tribal Constitution or the ordinance that allows the Council to vote on the reasons or the clerk's review procedures."

But according to the Tribe's Legal Department, Section 3(c)(3) of Ordinance No. 4 requires that each petition for removal must specify the act(s) or omission(s) of said Council member that provide cause for removal. This section of the Ordinance also provides that "pursuant to subsection 10(a) of Ordinance 19,a Tribal Council member may be removed for neglect of duty, misconduct in office, an offense involving dishonesty or if found guilty of any offense against the Tribal Code involving moral turpitude."

Saginaw Chippewa Chief Judge Joseph Martin has also already ruled against the same arguments presented by Peters in a case involving similar facts on June 18, 2004.

That matter stemmed from an April 6, 2004 lawsuit filed by Peters after a March 8, 2004 recall drive concerning Falcon, Sprague, Benz and Moses was invalidated by Tribal Council on March 31, 2004. The matter is still before the Saginaw Chippewa Appellate Court after oral arguments were heard by them in November.

In his decision, Martin stated "there must indeed be reasons for seeking the removal of a Council member..." He also ruled Tribal Council possesses the power to judge the merits of a removal petition under the paradigm set forth in Ordinance No. 4.

"Ordinance No. 4 saves the Tribe and its members a vast amount of resources by placing the decision in the hands of the Council initially, instead of possibly wasting much time, money and effort pursuing removal effort after removal effort."

According to the Saginaw Chippewa legal counsel, the Ordinance and the Constitution clearly contemplate that a Council member who is the subject of a removal petition remain in office unless or until a recall election is held and they are subsequently voted out of office. They also maintain to require a Council member step down before a final determination is made and prior to a vote on his or her removal would be a clear violation of Tribal law and an affront to the most basic notion of due process. Tribal Council has 14 days upon receipt of the petitions to render a decision on their validity.

As of an April 13 press time at 7 p.m., Tribal Council had not been presented with or seen the removal petitions. This also occurred with the recall petitions filed a year ago.

Despite being directed by Tribal Council with Resolution No. 04-068 on March 24, 2004 that the Tribal Clerk and/or Deputy Clerk "provide Tribal Council with the administrative record, including the removal petitions," Darryl Jackson remained steadfast on his beliefs, claiming rights to privacy and confidentiality "duly expressed to them under the Constitution of the United States of America."

Despite scheduled elections in the fall as this current administration's term expires, Peters said "it doesn't take the Seven Teachings of our Grandfathers to see that the Tribal membership wants change and does not want to wait until the general elections in October 2005 to get it."