Havre Daily News
ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - Village Grocery owner Debbie St. Pierre has closed her store in compliance with a tribal court order.
St. Pierre has been fighting a 50-cent tobacco tax increase passed by the tribal council in January and has refused to pay the new 55-cent tax. Acting Chief Judge Joe Morsette sided with the tribal council and ruled last Thursday that St. Pierre had until Tuesday to pay $5,500 in back taxes or close her store.
The tribal council said St. Pierre bought 1,000 cartons of cigarettes allotted by the council without paying the 55-cent tax she owed. St. Pierre disputes the number of cartons she owes taxes on.
The decision to revoke her business license had to be carried out by tribal court. After a hearing on June 22, Morsette gave St. Pierre until 1 p.m. Tuesday to comply.
A note left on the door of the store dated Tuesday said the store closed at 1 p.m. until further notice and said she planned to appeal the decision in tribal or federal court.
St. Pierre could not be reached for comment.
Village Grocery is the only private seller of cigarettes on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. After the state cigarette tax rose $1 on Jan. 1 to $1.70, the tribal council raised its tax from 5 cents to 55 cents on Jan. 6. The state tax is not collected on cigarettes sold on Rocky Boy.
St. Pierre has said she will argue in her appeal that the tribe's tax is not valid. She said in an interview last week that she has new information that supports her argument.