2018-04-05 / Front Page

Tribal chair survives recall

Casino support appears mixed
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

If a recall and a Tribal Council primary election held simultaneously Tuesday can serve as a gauge for support of a proposed waterfront hotel and casino in Peshawbestown, the outcome was murky at best.

Tribal Chairman Thurlow “Sam” McClellan, who opposed the development, narrowly survived a recall attempt. However, two of three council members who support the project and were up for re-election gained enough votes in the primary to run in the general election.

Election results remain unofficial until certified by the Tribal Election Board.

McClellan, the tribe’s top elected official, retained his seat with 249 tribal members voting against the recall and 229 voting in favor.

His margin of victory was more than 4 percent with about 48 percent of the tribe’s 1,008 registered voters casting ballots in the April 3 election.

The Primary was held to narrow down a field of 17 candidates vying for three seats on the seven-member Tribal Council, which includes McClellan. The top six in the Primary will face off in a regular election set for May 8.

But that’s only if the tribe’s Election Board certifies results of this week’s election and no one files an election challenge by an April 11 deadline. Election challenges have been common in the past.

If results of the Primary hold, the top six vote-getters will face off on May 8. They are:

• Mark Wilson, an incumbent Tribal Councilor who supports the development, who received 205 votes or about 9 percent of the votes cast.

• Brian S. Napont, a former Tribal Councilor who received 190 votes.

 Tina Anne Frankenberger, a tribal fisheries biologist who received 183 votes.

 Thomas P. Shomin, an incumbent Tribal Councilor who like Wilson voted for the casino project. He received 180 votes.

 Sonya Lynn Zotigh, a former Tribal Manager who received 168 votes.

 And Scott Lewis, a tribal business development specialist who received 164 votes, or a little over 7 percent.

The current tribal election cycle is being seen by some as a referendum on plans the Tribal Council approved in a split 4-3 vote last year to build a new $55 million hotel, casino and marina on the West Grand Traverse Bay waterfront in Peshawbestown.

Tribal Chairman McClellan was a staunch opponent of the plan. Two of the three Tribal Councilors running for re-election who support the development – Wilson and Shomin – survived the primary. A third supporter of the development plan, Tribal Councilor Percy J. Bird Jr, garnered only 108 votes in the Primary vote and will lose his seat after May 8.

Not all the remaining Tribal Council candidates have made public pronouncements about their views of the development project.

The question of whether there will be enough votes to keep the project alive after a new Tribal Council is seated next month remains unanswered.

It appears that all but three of the 484 tribal voters who cast ballots this week decided to vote in both races — the Tribal Council race and the Tribal Chairman’s recall election. Only 481 ballots were cast in the recall election.

The most voters and the highest percentage of voter turnout was evident at the tribal administration building in Peshawbestown where 195 voters representing a 53 percent turnout cast ballots. Polling places were also set up in Grand Traverse, Benzie, and Charlevoix counties. Twenty-eight absentee ballots were cast.

In a recall petition, McClellan was accused of misusing a tribal government credit card during an authorized trip to Washington, D.C. last year – an allegation McClellan denied. He has said that backers of the casino project sought the recall to quiet his concerns, which he has voiced through a column published in past Tribal newsletters.

Here are the vote totals for the remaining candidates: Francis Wayne Carew, 94; Bonnie L. Inman, 80; Gary A. John, 121; Stephen McClellan, 76; Alvin V. Pedwaydon, 146; Theresa Pelcher, 153; Freddy Raphael, 110; Cornelia TwoCrow, 83; Sharon K. Wasageshik, 31; Doris Winslow, 149.

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