Chief vetoes special election

A Tribal Council resolution calling for a special election to choose the next Vice Chief sat, unsigned, in the office of Principal Chief Richard Sneed since its passage Aug. 3 — until Sneed announced his decision to veto the decision on Monday, Sept. 4.

In a veto letter posted to his Facebook page, Sneed wrote that he based his decision on advice from the Legislative Counsel and Attorney General that tribal law contains no provision directly allowing a special election in this case. Holding a special election would require changing the election ordinance, which could not take place until after new councilmembers are seated in October, meaning that the new vice chief could not be elected until December.

“The fact that Tribal Council has failed to act in accordance with the established laws in regard to the current situation that we find ourselves in, a hardship has been created in the form of an inability to carry out personnel actions that require Executive Committee approval, specifically the authority to hire new employees,” the veto letter reads.

Lack of adequate staffing has impacted nursing home residents and Medicaid patients alike, Sneed said.

Tribal Council passed the Aug. 3 special election resolution by a vote of 57-43 after months of discussion. After passage, Sneed had 30 days to either sign or veto the resolution — he waited until the deadline to deliver his decision. The veto will be discussed during Tribal Council Thursday, Sept. 14, with a two-thirds majority required to overturn it.

In a long Facebook post, Councilmember Teresa McCoy — a vocal proponent of the special election who had also announced her candidacy for vice chief — decried the decision as an affront to the many community members who had called for a special election after the May 25 impeachment of former Principal Chief Patrick Lambert and subsequent swearing-in of Sneed in his place left the office vacant.

“I will vote to override,” McCoy wrote. “I came into government standing with the tribe, and that’s how I will leave.”

All 12 Tribal Council seats are up for election in the Sept. 7 General Election, with new members sworn in the following month.

— By Holly Kays, staff writer

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