Sault Tribe: No Special Election for Chairman After McCoy’s Resignation

Gale Courey Toensing
5/27/11

General election will be held in 2012

A regular meeting of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ board of directors shed no further light on why former Chairman Darwin “Joe” McCoy resigned earlier this month, but it did determine that there will not be a special advisory election to fill his seat.

McCoy announced his sudden and immediate resignation as the tribe’s elected leader on May 10. His brief resignation letter to the Sault Tribe Board of Directors provided no specific reasons for his decision to resign other than "circumstances beyond my control," according to a report on the tribe’s website. McCoy had served for nearly three years as chairman after being elected by members of the tribe.

The board discussed the issue of the vacant chairman’s seat at its regular May 24 meeting and reported that a review of the tribe’s election ordinance and consultation with its legal team determined that a special advisory election to fill the vacant seat is prohibited under tribal law, according to a new report posted May 24 on the tribe’s website.

According to the report, a special election to fill an unexpired chairperson’s term has to be held no sooner than 90 days after the election has been scheduled and announced in a legal notice. In order to hold a special advisory election, the election announcement would have had to been posted 90 days prior to July 27, 2011, which has already passed. If the board posted the election date notice by May 24 when it met, the earliest an election could be held would have been August 22, which would be 90 days after the notice. But that would bump up against another section of the ordinance that says a special advisory election can’t be held within a period of six months prior to the posting of the notice of a general election: “No Special Advisory Election shall be held if the election date shall be later than six (6) months prior to the posting of the Election Announcement for the next general election.” The next general election will be held in 2012.

Another section of the ordinance says that an election notice will be sent to all adult members by mail and also published in the tribal newspaper and on its website and elsewhere on the last Friday in January of the year in which the general election will be held. So members can expect a notice with the date of the next general election during the last week of January, 2010.

A resolution to eliminate the six-month prohibition failed by a vote of six to five, the report said.

Under the tribe's Constitution, board Vice Chairperson Lana Causley has assumed the duties of chairperson. This is the first time that a chairman has resigned near the end of his term, the report said.

“Our goal is to make sure we are following our Constitution and tribal laws, which clearly state that calling a special election in this instance would be prohibited,” Causley said. “On behalf of the entire board, I apologize for any confusion caused surrounding this issue.” Causley also cautioned members to be aware of any notices surrounding this and other tribal issues to be certain they are coming from the tribe and not an outside source.

Under the Tribe's Constitution, the board can appoint a chairperson to fill the unexpired term. The board will begin a discussion about who will be appointed at its next general meeting on Tuesday, May 31, Causley said. The board will post updates on its website and Facebook page. Official press releases, election code and Constitution documents can be found at www.saulttribe.com.

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