Thursday, May 20, 2010

Snoqualmie Tribal Council Snuffs Recall Call. Fights to Hold Power

Some 50 members of the Snoqualmie Tribe called for a recall of nearly half of the tribal council in a general meeting that staff and other council members say was improperly noticed and therefore invalid.

The Snoqualmie Tribal Council had ordered and then canceled a general meeting of tribal membership on Saturday, May 8, but about 50 voting members showed up anyway at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds longhouse in Monroe. Sub-chief Nathan Barker opened the meeting, and chairwoman-elect Shelley Burch, Barker’s sister, presided.

At that meeting, attendees voted to recall six tribal council members, including MaryAnne Hinzman, Bobby Hinzman, Ray Mullen, Margaret Mullen, Kanium Ventura and Arlene Ventura, who did not attend the meeting. Recall letters stated that the recalled council members had 30 days to reply to the membership on their reasons for not attending.

The Tribal Council met five days later in a closed session Thursday, May 13, at the tribe’s Snoqualmie offices. That morning, a note from Tribe Administrator Matt Mattson posted on the door of the office stated that the general meeting was illegally held and that the council remained intact.

“Staff will continue to respond to the sitting tribal council and proceed with the understanding that Nina Repin has a renewed term and Jake Repin, Jolene Williams and Shelley Burch assume office on May 15,” Mattson’s letter stated.

According to a tribal official, the Snoqualmie Tribe’s constitution calls for the general meeting agenda to be sent to the Tribal Secretary at least 30 days prior to the meeting, and for a meeting notice to be published in a newspaper. Neither of those conditions were met.

Council members had been told days earlier that the meeting was improper, acting chairwoman MaryAnne Hinzman told the Valley Record.

The meeting was called off, she said, to avoid legal challenges.

"We didn't want to have to go to court again," Hinzman said.

While 50 votes are technically a quorum, the tribe' constitution states that recall requires a vote by at least one-third of the tribal membership, roughly 120 votes — double the number of votes tallied that Saturday.

The tribal council called for a fact-finding meeting on Wednesday, May 26, on events surrounding the meeting. Tribal officials said that no council members are being forced off the council, but some of the council members who took part in the meeting may be censured, or required to go before the membership to explain their decision.

The council is also expected to set the agenda next week for a new general meeting. That meeting will come no less than 30 days from the date the agenda is set, according to officials.

Closed office

In the letter posted on the door of the tribal center, Mattson stated that his office had been inundated with rumors of the dismantling of the tribal council.

Then-current chairman Joe Mullen and Hinzman ordered him to close the tribal office to all but staff, council and those with appointments.

Chief Barker attended Thursday’s meeting and attempted to deliver the recall letters. Instead, council members sanctioned him.

Barker disagreed with the council’s decision not to attend the meeting.

“The rest of them chose not to face the people,” he said. “You’re elected by the people. You don’t go and hide from them.”

The tribal center was locked down in an election-related council dispute last fall. During mitigation hearings between council members that followed, Barker remembers being asked by a negotiator what he wanted. His answer: a general membership meeting.

“Let the people decide what they want,” Barker said.
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