McClatchy President's Award winning journalist Carmen George has an article on the upcome "special" election at Chukchansi
A new Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians tribal council election is planned for Saturday -- long-awaited for Reggie Lewis' council and seen as unjust by the council led by Morris Reid, who was elected as chairman in the Dec. 3 tribal council election.
Richard Verri, an associate with Rossette Attorneys at Law representing Lewis' council, said according to the tribe's constitution, if there is an election dispute, the sitting council remains in place until the dispute is resolved.
Reid said the new election set for March 10 should be considered invalid because Lewis' group broke the tribe's election laws in disqualifying Harold Hammond after he won, with late appeals filed by losers of the election, including chairman Reggie Lewis and treasurer Chance Alberta.
The election process and voting, handled by an independent election agency with votes read aloud to membership Dec. 3, has not been in question by either side.
Ballots sent out for Saturday's new election are only for Hammond's seat -- one of the four tribal council seats won in December.
No word has been given yet about what will happen with the other three seats -- previously won by Reid, Dora Jones and Dixie Jackson.
Saturday's election, scheduled by Lewis' council of four members (two not up for reelection this year and two that lost the election) comes a week and half after a fight broke out Feb. 28 amongst about 20 people outside the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians' tribal office when members supporting Reid's group, who was occupying the office, tried to return with food for people inside.
Injuries included a stabbing and head injury that required medical transport for two men to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
Reid said he spoke with Troy Burdick again on Monday -- Bureau of Indian Affairs' Central California superintendent -- in hopes BIA will help mediate the standoff. Reid said he also asked, as he has since December, that BIA look at the facts of the Dec. 3 election and make a determination from that.
Last month Burdick said the agency had not made plans to get involved in the standoff and that the tribe should be able to work it out under their own laws.
"BIA has considered this to be an internal tribal matter to be resolved by the Chukchansi," said Chukchansi Jed Davis about what sparked the office occupation. "When there is no court and the tribal council acts as judge, jury and executioner, what are we members to do?
"The federal government has a responsibility to maintain a government-to-government relationship and oversee the millions of taxpayer dollars that have been received by the Chukchansi government."
Lewis' council has disenrolled many tribal members since the Dec. 3 election, including a group of about 70 last month -- what Reid sees largely as a political move, akin to Republicans stripping Democrats of their U.S. citizenship, or vice versa, right before a new election scheduled by the losers.
Lewis' council has maintained that they are only following the tribe's laws and working with the enrollment committee.
Following the stabbing at the rancheria Feb. 28, Madera County Sheriff's Department officers cleared the area of all people except Chukchansi security guards (and later some individuals said to be insurance assessors from Lewis' group who were allowed in the office temporarily). The department remained posted outside the tribal office 24-7 until 2 p.m. Monday in hopes that would give BIA officials enough time to step in and mediate the situation. As of Tuesday afternoon, BIA had still not arrived at the rancheria.
Read the rest of Carmen George’s Article here