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Published June 26, 2007 08:47 pm - GROVE, Okla. — A dispute over a recent Seneca-Cayuga election has led to the closing of the tribe’s tobacco factory, leaving 60 employees without jobs on Tuesday.
Recent election cited in dispute between Seneca-Cayuga factions
By Sheila Stogsdill
GROVE, Okla. — A dispute over a recent Seneca-Cayuga election has led to the closing of the tribe’s tobacco factory, leaving 60 employees without jobs on Tuesday.
Chief Paul Spicer said Gary Toland, manager of the factory, shut down the operation. Spicer said the tribe did not have materials, and alleged that the tribe’s secretary-treasurer had illegally frozen the tribe’s financial accounts.
Without free access to its accounts, the tribe cannot buy raw materials for its tobacco factory, Spicer said.
In front of the tobacco factory, Kay Crow-Ellison, tribal secretary-treasurer, and Sharon “Katie” Birdsong, second chief, had a news conference denying Spicer’s allegations. They said they wanted to clear up any misconceptions about the tribe’s finances.
Both women said there are materials at the factory.
In a memo dated June 25 to tobacco factory employees, Seneca-Cayuga Tribal Corp. began laying off workers, saying the bank accounts were inaccessible.
Crow-Ellison said Spicer is misleading tribal members when he says the factory was closed because the tribe’s funds are frozen or inaccessible.
“I have talked to our banks, and all of our accounts are open,” Crow-Ellison said. “The banks are doing business as usual and honoring our checks.”
The factory makes about 15,500 cartons of cigarettes daily. The cost of a carton is $13, Crow-Ellison said.
Most of the employees are expecting to pick up their regular paychecks today, the women said.
“The tribe is seeking a restraining order and damages against the individuals responsible for the alleged illegal actions,” Spicer said, referring to frozen accounts.
Spicer said the problem involves a few disgruntled members whose candidates recently lost a tribal election by a 2-to-1 margin and now are seeking to grab power by any means.
“This is only the latest in a series of actions by the losing side in our recent elections to disrupt the duly elected government and its operations,” Spicer said. “We go through this every election, and I’m tired of it.”
In the tribe’s June 2 general council and election, Spicer was re-elected to a second term as chief. Several protests were filed regarding the validity of the election.
Also during the June 2 meeting, the election and grievance committees were seated. The new election committee upheld the protests and called for a new election. The old election committee threw out the protests and certified the election, citing Spicer as chief.
According to records in the Court of Indian Offenses in Miami, Judge William Wantland on June 12 issued a temporary restraining order staying the certification of the election. A court date of July 20 was set for hearing arguments.
“We don’t know who the chief is,” Crow-Ellison said.
Birdsong and Crow-Ellison said the Bureau of Indian Affairs will not do business with the tribe and federal funds will not be reinstated until after the July 20 court date.
“That is wrong,” Spicer said. “We are doing business with BIA every day.”
In addition to the tobacco factory closing, several social services — including emergency funds, the tribal tag program, all federal programs and the health-care clinic — were suspended after Spicer locked the gates to the tribe’s Miami office, said Dolly Pewitt, a former tribal council member.
Spicer said all other services, including Grand Lake Casino, were open.
The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe has about 4,400 members, about half of whom live in Delaware and Ottawa counties in Northeast Oklahoma
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Published July 31, 2007 09:14 pm - MIAMI, Okla. — A two-month dispute over who will lead the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe for the next two years has been resolved by a declaration of nonjurisdiction in the Court of Indian Offenses, according to the tribe.
Tribe: Court’s decision resolves election dispute
By Sheila Stogsdill
MIAMI, Okla. — A two-month dispute over who will lead the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe for the next two years has been resolved by a declaration of nonjurisdiction in the Court of Indian Offenses, according to the tribe.
The re-election of Chief Paul Spicer was upheld last week. The two-term chief won with 523 votes to 373 votes in the June 2 tribal election.
The election was contested by former Chief Leroy Howard and his supporters because of an increase in the amount of absentee votes, according to a tribe spokesman.
Howard did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Several protests were filed regarding the validity of the election, but a previous election committee threw out the protests and certified the election, citing Spicer as chief. A newly seated election committee then upheld the protests and called for a new election.
The dispute led to Judge William Wantland issuing a temporary restraining order staying the certification of the election.
After hearings on July 20 and 27, Wantland ruled Friday that the court does not have jurisdiction over tribal election disputes and allowed the unanimous confirmation of the tribe’s election committee to stand.
The one-page ruling said the court found that the General Council of June 2 was adjourned upon a motion, a second to that motion and a voice vote, and that no appeal was taken from the chief’s declaration of adjournment.
“Therefore the resolution to give the court jurisdiction in election disputes is null and void, and the court does not have jurisdiction,” the court record states.
“Our tribal members have spoken with a strong and clear voice in support of the direction we have led the tribe over the last two years,” Spicer said in a prepared statement.
The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma has 4,400 members.
Oklahoma is the home of 39 tribal governments, according to Oklahoma Indian Legal Services Inc.
As sovereign, independent nations, the tribes have the authority to operate their own tribal courts, the legal organization states on its Web site.
Oklahoma tribes use two types of courts: tribal courts and courts of Indian offenses.
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