UPDATE: Congressman Jeff Denham has taken over $70,000 from Indian Casino interests this past election cycle: See Jeff Denham’s contributors HERE
As of Tuesday, the fate of three Chukchansi tribal council seats remained in question after a meeting to swear in council members was canceled Monday night.
Reggie Lewis, chairman of the group that has remained in charge of the tribe's operations at the rancheria, issued a statement Monday that, "based on credible information forwarded to public safety officials and the history of past actions of a small number of agitators, the council determined out of abundance of caution that safety should rule the day. Later this week, the meeting will be rescheduled for a new date and time."
Madera County Sheriff's Office Spokesperson Erica Stuart said the department was only told that the meeting would not take place.
The group headed by Morris Reid -- four top-vote getters in the Dec. 3 tribal council election who have not been recognized by Lewis' group as new council members -- were holding their regular meeting with tribal members in Oakhurst at the same time Monday night and said they had no plans to protest the meeting.
Tribal member Nicolette Griffith said she and some Chukchansi members had planned to peacefully protest the swearing-in from Picayune Road (417) by holding signs because they heard Reid, Dora Jones and Dixie Jackson were not going to be sworn in.
Reid's group said they don't expect to be sworn in by Lewis' group.
Their seats may be filled through another election or by appointments.
March 26 was the new date for swearing-in the tribal council, rescheduled from Dec. 26 by Lewis' group until a new election could be held for Harold Hammond's seat. Hammond, the top vote-getter of the Dec. 3 election, was found to be ineligible to serve on council due to allegedly wearing his expired council badge to get into sensitive casino areas.
Members of Reid's group recently received new letters signed by Lewis and Jennifer Stanley stating they were found to be guilty of violating the tribe's non-violence ordinance Dec. 26 and Dec. 27.
Amidst the heated Dec. 26 tribal council meeting, with protests raised by tribal members that the new council should be seated as scheduled, the four newly-elected were sworn in. The Lewis group did not recognize this action.
Madera County Sheriff's Office officials were present at that meeting at request to ensure the peace was kept. Sheriff John Anderson wrote a statement after the meeting that no record of assaultive, aggressive or violent behavior had been reported to the department about the three leaders who now await word about whether or not they will be seated with Lewis' group.
"We are going to keep up our fight," Jones said. "We are still holding meetings and meeting with the BIA and that type of thing. I met with Congressman Jeff Denham a couple weeks back and he is basically not interested in getting involved.