Native American Press / Ojibwe News

March 21, 2003
Election Turmoil at LLBO

By Diane E. White

On Thursday, March 13, Arthur “Archie” LaRose, Secretary-Treasurer vs. District Representatives, Richard Robinson, Lyman Losh and Burton Wilson Tribal Court Trial began with B.J. Jones serving as Judge. Last week’s Native American Press reported this case. Since the Trial was so limited in scope members of the Election Board wanted to be heard. In addition, Richard Jones plead the “5th” to whether certain Petition Validation Committee / Election Board members received political payola for their service. As for this story, Richard Jones is still taking the “5th”.

The Leech Lake Election Board has always been made up of one appointee per Reservation Business Committee (RBC) member. In April, 2002, the election for Secretary-Treasurer and District I and II committee representatives appointed to the Election Board:

· Election Judge, Louella Novak
· Election Administrator, Susie Dvorak
· Election Teller, Kay Jackson
· Election Clerk, April Greene
· Alternate, Bernice Pemberton

Richard Jones, Government Relations Specialist, presented the board members with the Policies & Procedures that govern the election process and outlines various duties. Not every member accepted the guidelines and would not follow them; however, they may not have been officially accepted by the RBC.  The RBC has governed the election board as a general practice, even though the position of “Secretary” generally means oversight of the election process. These positions are temporary, full-time (except the Alternate, who serves as needed), and the hourly wage range is $15 – $17 per hour.
 
Given the constraints, it is not hard to understand how this board became so politically motivated over the next year when the Reservation’s inner-turmoil occurred. One of the Board members indicated that after the completion of the June, 2002 election, they did not receive notice informing them their temporary positions were over and so they collected a weekly paycheck even though they had no official duties.

Then the Petition to Remove Eli O. Hunt created the first Petition Validation Committee, which was made up with two appointees per RBC member and one alternate. The RBC did not allow any person who signed the Petition against Hunt to serve on the Committee, however, they did allow members of the Election Board to serve on this Committee. Novak and Pemberton served on the first Petition Validation Committee.  Ultimately, this Committee was unanimous in their final outcome of accepted “resident eligible voters.” This lead to the Public Hearing and the Recall Election that ousted Hunt and opened the Chairman’s position to a new vote.

At the beginning of the Recall Election, the RBC appointed two new members to the Election Board ostensibly removing two positions. Archie LaRose’s appointment was Wallace Storbakken and Burton Wilson appointed Sherrie Rodriguez. No other changes were made. How the decision to position Storbakken as Election Judge and Rodriguez as Administrator is not known and why the previous Judge and Administrator were not notified their temporary terms were completed is not known. 

When Storbakken and Rodriguez reported for duty, they were asked to leave by Kay Jackson who reportedly stated, “If you have any integrity, you’d get off your ass and walk out that door.” Since neither did so, Novak, Jackson and Pemberton left and did not return. Their departure left open the Teller and Alternate positions and Harold Monroe was appointed as Alternate. April Greene then served as Teller and Clerk. Dvorak and Rodriguez both held the position of Administrator.

Early in December, Archie Larose, Secretary-Treasurer, was served with a Petition for Removal which triggered the second Petition Validation Committee being formed. This time the RBC allowed only seven members, which included persons who signed the Petition to be on the Committee, thereby some Committee members having a vested interest in the 20% validation of eligible resident voters. None of new Election Board served on the second Petition Validation Committee, but it is not known whether this is by design or by accident. The second validation committee did include Novak, Jackson and Pemberton who were also members of the “Majority Committee” that validated enough resident eligible voters despite 27 affidavits requesting to be removed from the Petition and 33 off-reservation petition signers. Kay Jackson testified at court on March 13 and presented to the RBC (at an earlier date) that the Committee personally telephoned petitioner signers and asked if they “felt” they lived on the Reservation. She also testified that the Committee accepted signatures without actual proof through accepted practice of comparing signatures.

The Election Board completed the Primary and General Elections and had since vacated the board’s office and positions.  They complained that Novak, Jackson and Pemberton were officially terminated from their positions and then reinstated by Acting Chairman Richard Robinson who assigned them to write the Policies & Procedures for the Election Board and to prepare a voter roster. The reinstatement included full back-pay and $16.00 per hour each. Previously, Pemberton was reportedly authorized by former Secretary-Treasurer, Linda G. Johnston to be paid a full-time wage even though her position was clearly “as needed” and there was no vacancy to provide her with a paid position. This precedent set the way for Monroe to also be paid a full-time, temporary position even though he was an Alternate. Monroe was in the office every day serving.

Mary Reich, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Enrollment Manager, testified that she is responsible for the enrollment database since 1990. She determines the number needed in “eligible resident voters” for purposes of Petitions to Remove elected officials and verified that the number fluctuates based upon 1) new voters (turning 18); 2) deaths of voters; 3) new voting members enrolled within a Band; 4) voters moving onto Reservation boundaries; and 5) voters moving off Reservation boundaries. Reich also codes voters according to location: 1) On Reservation 2) Off Reservation; or 3) Near the Reservation. Enrollment numbers are also used by grant-writers when preparing grants. The Voter Rosters are not available to the public and are kept under lock and key. Richard Jones testified that the Executive Director, not the Secretary-Treasurer keeps this key. Members of the Election Board indicated the need for a voter registration process not a voter list being needed; and a need for policies and procedures regarding the recall election process. The current process acts like an election not a referendum vote. The first phase is a referendum vote and should not allow for a protest according to the Board. The second phase of a recall does act like an election and includes primary and general elections. This election currently allows the “ousted” official to run again for the same office and term he/she was removed from.

LaRose fought the Petitioner’s validation citing his due process rights were violated as evidenced by the Committee breaking into two outcomes, a “Majority” Committee accepted enough eligible resident voters and a “Minority” Committee did not. His complaint was brought to Tribal Court. Testimony of this court case resumes this Friday at 8:00 a.m. in Tribal Chambers with Kay Jackson completing testimony. Zenas Baer will complete testimony with defense witnesses, closing Arguments by both attorneys, Baer and Randy Thompson. A judicial decision is not expected on Friday, March 21.



 
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