A former candidate for the Chippewa Cree Tribal council at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation has appealed the ruling of a Tribal Court judge denying his protest of the October primary election.
Stacey Small said this morning he filed the appeal Friday.
“We didn’t even get heard,” Small said.
Small protested the results of October’s primary, saying background checks were not properly performed on all of the candidates. One of the candidates, Neal Rosette Sr., had been convicted of a felony charge of forgery by common scheme for writing checks from an account of a business Rosette had helped found.
Small said, in his complaint and request that the general election be postponed until a new primary could be held, that, as Rosette had been sentenced to a three-year probationary period — deferred imposition of sentence — that he had not passed the requirement of being free of any punishment for a felony crime for at least five years. Rosette had passed his probationary period and, under Montana allowances for deferred imposition of sentence, the conviction had been struck from his record and the case sealed.
Small said the election board still should have denied Rosette’s eligibility due to the conviction and probation.
The day before the election, Small said, Chief Tribal Judge Joel Rosette made his ruling without letting Small’s attorney present arguments.
“Chief Judge Rosette did not give us a fair hearing,” Small said.
Representatives of the Tribal Court referred questions to Chippewa Cree Tribal Attorney LeAnn Montez, who said she could not release information on the case and referred a reporter back to the courts.
Montez said support briefs had not yet been filed in the appeal, to her knowledge, and that she did not believe any hearings or trials had been scheduled.
Court Administrator Elinor Nault was not available to answer questions this morning.
Council member Rusty Gopher, who lost his bid for re-election in the October primary but is not part of the lawsuit, said in an e-mail Friday that the appeal was filed for reasons including an alleged abuse of discretion, reversible errors, denial of equal protection, breach of judicial ethics based upon apparent and clear and present bias or appearance of impropriety, and bias or prejudice toward the defendants.
Small said this morning that he is concerned for his own safety as well as the safety of the others listed in his lawsuit, but that something has to be done. He added that if necessary the members of the Tribe should change what is in the election ordinances to make sure that elections are fair.
“We’re just doing what’s right,” he said. “The people have got to start making the change.”