BELCOURT A tribal appeals court has set a hearing for July 30 to determine whether the governing council of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa has the authority to remove the tribal chairman.
The council voted 5-1 on July 12 to remove Chairman Richard Marcellais from office.
Don Bruce, Marcellais' attorney, said the council is alleging that Marcellais, also a Democrat state senator from District 9, failed to perform his duties as chairman while serving in the Legislature. Marcellais has denied the claim.
Conflict between the council and chairman has existed for some time over a variety of issues.
Before the council's July 12 vote, Marcellais had suspended the pay of council members for two weeks for what he considered to be failure to perform their jobs. Bruce explained Marcellais was dissatisfied with the council's effectiveness and felt most council members were spending too little time at the office.
Efforts to reach council members at the tribal office Thursday were unsuccessful.
Judge El Marie Conklin determined the council was within its authority and issued an injunction against Marcellais in tribal court July 17 to keep him from returning to the tribal office until a removal hearing can be held. Marcellais, who filed an appeal, has continued to act as chairman. He is in Minneapolis to attend a meeting on the Head Start program on behalf of the tribe.
Bruce said the tribal code permits removal of an elected officer only through a recall initiated by voters. An ordinance had existed that allowed the council to remove chairman Richard Monette in 2002. A revision of tribal code in 2006 changed the removal method to recall.
The appeals court agreed to hear the dispute, which it called a "fundamental disagreement of law," and ordered a halt to proceedings to remove the chairman until the appeal is decided. The court restrained both sides from taking any actions to remove the others from office before the July 30 hearing.