2012-04-19 / Local News

Primary certified; slate of candidates set for Grand Traverse Band election

Two challengers are left in bids to replace Tribal Chair Derek Bailey, who is running for Congress.
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

Results of a Primary Election conducted by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians on April 5 were certified by the tribal election board last week despite a challenge filed by a former chairman of the board, Desmond Berry.

At attorney representing the tribal election board, former Tribal Court chief judge Wilson Brott, said the election board met last Thursday evening, April 12, and certified the election results as scheduled. Brott explained that Berry’s challenge was not filed in time to meet last Thursday’s deadline to delay certifi- cation of the Primary Election.

Berry had complained that a provision of the 2012 Tribal Election regulations was in violation of the Tribal Constitution’s guarantee that tribal members may assemble peaceably and petition for a redress of grievances.

The provision of the election regulations to which Berry objects requires that all election disputes must be accompanied by a non-refundable $500 fee to cover the Election Board’s costs. The provision was put in place partly to forestall the multiplicity of election challenges seen in previous tribal election cycles.

Berry has also called on the Tribal Court to stay results of the Primary Election – something that hasn’t happened yet, and may not happen, according to Brott.

“As things stand, Brott explained, “the Primary Election results have been certified and the Election Board is planning to hold the Regular Election on May 16 as scheduled unless it hears otherwise from the Tribal Court.”

In the meantime, Brott has filed a motion in Tribal Court asking a panel of judges to summarily dismiss Berry’s complaint. Brott’s court briefing notes that Berry had never before brought his concerns about the new election regulations to the election board.

In addition to serving as a top offi- cial in the tribe’s Natural Resources Department, Berry also served on the Election Board as its chairman in the 2010 election cycle, but resigned prior to completing his term. He subsequently applied to be reappointed, but was not.

Berry has not returned phone calls from an Enterprise reporter seeking comment. His attorney, Craig Elhart, did provide the newspaper a copy of Berry’s initial complaint.

Brott said he did not know if or when the Tribal Court would schedule a hearing on Berry’s complaint, or if any decision would be made to halt the election process. Not a tribal member, Brott formerly worked for the tribe as a tribal court judge, and is now in private practice.

The April 5 Primary Election was held to narrow down a field of five candidates to two running for the Tribal Chairman’s seat. The top two vote-getters, Alvin Pedwaydon and Robert Kewaygoshkum, are slated to face off in the Wednesday, May 16, Regular Election.

The Primary also narrowed a field of 21 candidates to six running for three seats on the Tribal Council. The top three vote-getters were the three incumbent Tribal Councilors whose seats are opening this spring: David Arroyo, Brian Napont and Sandra Witherspoon. The additional three top vote getters whose names are slated to appear on the May 16 ballot are JoAnne Gasco, John Concannon and Thomas Shomin.

A complete, certified list of candidates and how they fared in the April 5 Primary Election accompanies this story.

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