KBIC judges suspended for ‘unlawful interference’ with tribal affairs

Two Keweenaw Bay Indian Community judges are suspended indefinitely without pay for, what the KBIC Tribal Council president says, personnel policy violations.

Associate Judge Violet Ayres was presiding over a referendum injunction on the proposed purchase of the Baraga Lakeside Inn.  Chief Judge Bradley Dakota recused himself from presiding over the referendum because his father is the plaintiff in the case.

In tribal voting, a motion is passed by a show of hands.  Since that passed (8-4 for the purchase of the Baraga Lakeside Inn), a referendum is brought to tribal members to approve purchases over $100,000.

The injunction was filed to vacate the vote, saying it should be done by a secret ballot instead of a show of hands.

“That’s how we’ve been conducting votes for many years, and then when the people do it…I don’t know why…it’s a learning process,” KBIC Tribal Council President Donald Shalifoe said.  “This is the third referendum that we’ve had, nobody’s been fired yet, nobody’s been intimidated by the way they voted.  The intention of the New Mood Foreign Council is to allow people to have a say so in their government.  If we have to change the way we run the referendum, if that’s what people want then that’s what we’ll do.”

“As a judge I probably shouldn’t say what my opinion is, but in this particular case it doesn’t really matter,” KBIC Chief Judge Bradley Dakota said.  “I don’t believe that a popular referendum should be conducted by a show of hands or by proxy voting.  It allows the people conducting the voting to know who you are and can therefore retaliate against whether or not you voted for them or not.”

Dakota was told of his suspension via text message from Shalifoe.  The judges were suspended after Ayers issued a temporary restraining order voiding the results of the Baraga Lakeside Inn referendum.

“I was served with some sort of paper that doesn’t really state anything specific,” Dakota said.  “It states a lot of personnel policy which in my opinion doesn’t apply to myself or Judge Ayers because we’re elected by the people of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.”

“As Keweenaw Bay Indian Community employees, they were suspended because of their ‘unlawful interference with the operation of tribal affairs as approved by the Tribal Council’, is what occurred by their issuing of a temporary restraining order…they overstepped their bounds,” Shalifoe said.

The executive council has since shut off power and water to the Tribal Court.  The tribal council will meet Thursday to discuss Ayers’ and Dakota’s suspension.