Chukchansi election complete, controversy continues
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Controversy continues over a vote to fill a vacant seat on the Chukchansi Tribal Council on Saturday. Reggie Lewis won the election, after losing to a different candidate in December.
Up next for the tribe as a whole is certifying Saturday night's election and swearing in the newly elected tribal leaders.
The election has left a sour taste with some members who say their votes were blocked -- while other votes were paid for. There were heated words from Chukchansi tribal members who say they were unable to vote Saturday for the vacant tribal council seat.
Security was tight at the casino where the election took place. A tribal spokesperson says about 40 members were banned from casino property. Instead, they were served letters which accused them of misconduct.
"Those folks were given absentee ballots and could have mailed them in," said tribal spokesperson Roger Salazar.
"We feel that it's invalid due to the fact that there was an election on December 3," said Tribal Council Elect Morris Reid.
Reid was elected to the council in December, and has not yet been sworn in. He's also part of a tribal faction that claimed it was denied its rightful place in tribal government following the previous election. That group tried to take over government offices nearly two weeks ago. The dispute turned violent, and left three people injured.
For the first time ever, the tribe obtained quorum -- 60 percent of its members present at a General Council Meeting. The majority of members voted to support the sitting council. "That essentially means that the folks that are in place prior to the last election will stay in place until the new council is fully elected and that whole election process is completed," said Salazar.
"This is no way to run a government, and it takes away from members of the tribe, their rights," said Reid.
Many of the members at the General Council Meeting are from out of town. Some members banned from the property claim, those votes were paid for by the tribe, to receive the current council's desired outcome. But the tribe says those members were simply given travel allowances.
The newly elected council will be sworn in on March 26th. But more problems may be ahead as some of these people were involved in the office take over. They may face disciplinary actions.
The tribe also says its beginning to form a tribal court to better deal with internal disputes.
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