The Chippewa Cree tribe's Election Board will appeal a judge's decision that would have cleared the way for Ken Blatt St. Marks to be sworn in as tribal council chair.
The appeal could delay St. Marks' swearing in for several months as attorneys for both sides prepare their cases and submit briefs.
Lynn Fagan, the Missoula attorney who represents the election board, said members felt strongly that letting Judge Dawn Bitz Running Wolf’s decision stand would lead to more uncertainty about rules and procedures in future elections.
"The Election Board has concerns that the order, unless appealed, will affect the validity of future elections and protests," Fagan said.
St. Marks was not available for comment this morning, but he had said that if the board decided to appeal, he would take the case to federal officials, asking them to instate him as tribal chair.
St. Marks was elected to the chairmanship last year but was removed by a vote of tribal council members, who charged him with a variety of offenses including illegal use of tribal funds and verbal and sexual abuse of employees.
St. Marks and his supporters strongly deny that, saying St, Marks is being targeted for cooperating with federal authorities investigating widespread corruption at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.That probe has led to charges against nine people who are awaiting trial.
After being removed from office, he had to sue to get his name on the ballot for the election to pick a new chair.
He was the top vote-getter in that election, but the election board members invalidated those results, saying they had improperly allowed some people to vote without formal tribal certification. Tribal council has vowed to remove St. Marks from office if courts order that he be sworn in.