A complaint filed by a candidate in the primary for Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation’s Tribal council has been rejected by the Chippewa Cree Tribe's election board.
Stacey Small, who failed in his bid to advance to the general election, filed a protest Sunday night, a few hours before the midnight deadline to register a complaint, saying the board had not properly done background checks as required by the Tribal constitution. That let a candidate with a felony record onto the ballot, Small said.
Under Tribal election laws and its constitution, a Tribal member may not file as a candidate sooner than five years after a sentence ends.
In its reply to Small Tuesday, which he received late Wednesday, the board replied that Small had missed the deadline for his complaint and that the complaint was invalid because the candidate in question, Neal P. Rosette Sr., had passed the background check.
The board said that the deadline to appeal the approval of a Tribal member as a qualified candidate is five days before the election is held. The deadline Small met was to appeal the results of the election, as per improper procedures being used.
Rosette had been convicted of a felony, forgery by common scheme, in January 2005 after he signed another’s name to checks worth more than $5,000 from an organization he helped found. But the issue is what kind of sentence was imposed.
The judge imposed a three-year deferred imposition of sentence for the conviction, allowed for people never before convicted of a felony. Under that sentence, Montana law says once a felon completes the probationary period, three years for Rosette, the charge and conviction can be wiped off the record and the file sealed, effectively clearing his record.
Small said this morning that he realizes now the background check would have cleared Rosette, but that he stands by his actions. The election board must be held accountable, and there are questions on the background checks of some other candidates, he said.
“We just wanted to make a point,” Small said this morning. “Their background checks are questionable.
“We need to put some pressure on them, that’s what we need to do,” he added.
The last election of the Tribe also was questioned when a candidate said in 2008 the election board had not properly followed the required procedures prior to and during the election.
That protest, filed by Ken Blatt St. Marks, was denied by the board. After he appealed, a Tribal judge ruled in St. Mark’s favor and ordered a new election. But after the board appealed that, an appellate judge ruled that the appeals process had not properly been followed and that the Tribal judge did not have jurisdiction.
Small and Rusty Gopher, a two-term Tribal council member who also lost his bid this year to advance to the general election, said Thursday that St. Marks’ protest has raised awareness of the need to hold the election board accountable.
“People deserve to air their concerns,” Gopher said. “They are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.”
Small also said he wanted to thank the voters in the Oct. 5 primary, as well as the candidates who came to a meeting this week to discuss the protest he filed.
He added that the issue may not yet be over.
“We’ll see,” he said. “Right now, everything’s up in the air.”