Yankton Sioux government crisis deepensSix acting officials reportedly OK’d in place of those who were suspended.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
WAGNER — Six new interim members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe Business and Claims Committee were reportedly sworn in Wednesday after an apparently hectic meeting of the tribe’s General Council was called by recently suspended tribal officials.
According to Yankton Sioux Tribe member Frances Zephier, the new committee members were sworn in after a General Council meeting was held Wednesday morning by recently suspended Business and Claims Committee Vice Chairwoman Ida Ashes, and suspended committee members Jason Cooke, Jody Zephier, Gail Hubbeling, Brenda Zephier and Nick Cournoyer.
Thurman Cournoyer Sr., tribal chairman, said Monday the tribal officials were suspended for 30 days without pay after allegedly canceling a recent General Council meeting to prevent relatives and friends from being fired from the tribe-run Fort Randall Casino.
The General Council is made up of all tribal members and oversees the Business and Claims Committee. The chairman, vice chairman and council members serve on the Business and Claims Committee.
The officials claimed the suspensions were not valid due to an injunction issued by tribal judge and Chamberlain-based attorney Theresa Maule preventing the suspensions from taking effect. Maule has since recused herself due to a conflict of interest, Zephier said in a phone interview with The Daily Republic on Wednesday.
It remains unclear if the injunction has been lifted, which would officially enact the suspensions. The Daily Republic attempted Wednesday to contact Maule, but was unsuccessful.
Zephier said the suspended committee members apparently called the meeting to discipline Yankton Sioux Tribal Chairman Thurman Cournoyer Sr. for wrongfully suspending them. Cournoyer refused to acknowledge that agenda, Zephier said, and instead chose to swear in six replacements members — Shirley Arrow, Gene Archambeau, Larry Milk, Frances Hart, Mike Ross and Narcisse Shields.
According to Zephier, the newly appointed committee will serve until the suspensions are up, at which point another General Council meeting will be held to give each suspended committee member the chance to state a case. The decision to reinstate or remove each suspended member will be decided by a vote among those tribal members who attend the meeting.
No tribal officials could be reached for comment Wednesday despite repeated attempts by The Daily Republic.