Candidacy on the Heels of Resignation

Carol Berry
2/25/11

The recently-resigned former chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe is in the running to replace himself in a special election April 12 to fill the seat he left vacant when he stepped down Feb. 11 “in the best interests of the tribe,” as a newly appointed acting chairman later said.

Matthew Box, the former chairman, faces four other contenders for the seat, including Richard L. Jefferson, who spearheaded a groundswell of opposition to Box, whose administration was, Jefferson said, plagued by “off-the-wall firings” and other administrative problems

After the five candidates for the tribal chairmanship were certified Feb. 24, Jefferson was asked for comment. He pointed out that nothing in tribal policies or procedures would preclude Box from running for chairman after he resigned, “but now, he’s trying to do—what?” he queried. Box could not be reached for comment.

Those vying to lead this mineral resource-rich tribal nation in southwestern Colorado include Clement J. Frost, a rancher who served many years on tribal council, including several terms as chairman; Kevin R. Frost, his relative, a graduate of the University of Denver’s law school; Pearl E. Casias, a former tribal judge for the Southern Utes; Jefferson, a long-time tribal executive who at age 27 was the youngest person elected to the council, and Box, who runs an excavation business and has served several terms on the tribal council.

Among other actions leading up to Box’s resignation, the council suspended the tribe’s Code of Ethics for the filing of any new personnel complaints a year ago, at about the point in time when dissatisfaction began to surface over the tribe’s personnel practices and a petition was prepared to recall Box.

The recall challenge Dec. 3, 2010 failed when fewer than half of the tribe’s registered voters cast their ballots, a turnout Jefferson attributed in part to Box’s repeated urging over tribal radio for his supporters not to go to the polls.

For a valid election to have occurred, more than half the voters would have had to cast ballots and, for Box’s removal, more than half of those who voted would have had to favor recall.

Box’s resignation culminated a period during which he fired the tribal council’s presiding vice chairman, terminated and reinstated an executive officer, and reportedly resigned before receiving a written removal notice prepared for the tribal council to give to him.

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