Update: Judge rules for St. Marks in election lawsuit
Election board may decide on Monday on appeal
September 27, 2013
Ken Blatt St. Marks said he may be sworn in as chair of the Chippewa Cree Tribal Council as early as Monday.
St. Marks said Tribal Court Judge Donna Running Wolf ruled in his favor Thursday in a lawsuit he filed against the tribe’s election board. The board threw out the results of the election in which St. Marks finished first of five candidates.
St. Marks has been in a prolonged battle with the tribal establishment at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation. He says that is because he is cooperating with federal officials investigating widespread corruption. Several people have already been indicted, and the federal investigation is ongoing.
St. Marks was elected once and thrown out of office by the tribal council. He then ran to fill the vacancy caused by his removal.
In that vote, election board members contended that some people had voted using paper tribal identification documents instead of the mandated laminated identification cards. Tribal officials were unable to provided laminated certificates on election day because the equipment overheated. Election board members allowed people with paper certificates to vote, but after the results were tallied, the board invalidated the election.
But Running Wolf said only 12 people voted without laminated cards, and St. Marks won by 137 votes.
The election board will meet Monday, St. Marks said.
He said he wouldn’t be surprised if the election board decided to appeal Running Wolf’s decision to a tribal appellate court.
Lynn Fagan, the Missoula attorney who represented the election board, said she had not talked to her clients and wasn't sure whether they were interested in appealing.
He said she believed the board had five days to make a decision. But if the board decides not to appeal, she said, St. Marks may well be sworn in on Monday.
She said Running Wolf's decision was based largely on the lack of written procedures and not out af a belief there was an attempt to keep St. Marks out of office.
But St. Marks said he was sure that many in tribal leadership will don't want him in office.
“I could be sworn in on Monday and be impeached on Tuesday,” he lamented.
“They have spent a lot of money to get me,” he said. “They might keep going at it.”
Running Wolf was unavailable for comment Friday morning.