2018-04-26 / Local News

Tribe moves past election dispute; six candidates seek Council seats

Casino project in balance?
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

The Election Board of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians was slated to meet today, April 26, at 5:30 p.m., to discuss preparations for the tribe’s General Election.

Voters will go to the polls to select Tribal Council members on May 8.

At a special meeting held last Wednesday, April 18, the Election Board formally certified results of the tribe’s April 3 Primary Election. That election was held to narrow down a field of 17 candidates to six who will compete for three vacant seats on the Tribal Council on May 8.

Also on April 3, tribal members considered recalling Tribal Chairman Thurlow “Sam” McClellan from office halfway through his four-year term. McClellan retained his seat by 20 votes — 52 percent of the tally.

Certification of Primary Election results for seats on the Tribal Council was to have occurred at an April 11 Election Board meeting. However, the board was “unable to certify results due to the fact that an Election Dispute was filed,” according to a public notice posted by Election Board Secretary Diane Sullivan.

On April 17, the Election Board held a hearing regarding the dispute at a special meeting and rescheduled its regular meeting to the following day, April 18.

At last week’s meeting, the Election Board formally accepted a written and in-person apology from one of the candidates in the Primary Election, Sonya Lynn Zotigh, a former Tribal Manager. Zotigh’s alleged misconduct was not specified during the meeting, and no more mention was made of an election dispute.

Zotigh was one of the top six vote-getters in the Primary Election. Her name will appear on the May 8 General Election ballot following the board’s April 18 decision to certify election results.

The five other candidates whose names will also appear on the May 8 General Election ballot are Tina Anne Frankenberger, Scott Lewis, Brian S. Napont, Thomas P. Shomin, and Mark L. Wilson. Shomin and Wilson are incumbent members of the seven-member Tribal Council.

One of the biggest campaign issues candidates have been debating involves a plan to build a new $55 million hotel and casino on the West Grand Traverse Bay waterfront in Peshawbestown. Shomin and Wilson have supported the project while McClellan has opposed it. Last year, the Tribal Council voted 4-3 in favor of the project.

The May 3 election is being seen by some tribal members as a referendum on the new casino and hotel project.

In addition, the tribe has been seeking to expand its economic development efforts into other fields, including providing high-speed Internet, phone and cable TV services. A subcontractor for the tribe resumed laying fiber optic cable from a tribal property in Grand Traverse County to the tribal reservation in Peshawbestown this week with the return of seasonal weather.

The Tribal Council also serves as the board of the tribe’s Economic Development Corporation. Through the Leelanau Sands Casino and other enterprises in Peshawbestown, the tribe is Leelanau County’s largest single employer. It is also one of the largest single employers in northwest lower Michigan.

During the tribe’s April 3 election, 48-percent of the tribe’s 1,008 registered voters in its six-county service area in northwestern lower Michigan cast ballots.

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