Ute Tribal Turmoil Continues

Ute Tribal Turmoil Continues

Carol Berry
11/10/11

Just when you thought it was over, the recall petitions are back like unwelcome guests.

Recalls and a suspension may affect—at least temporarily—the functioning of half the six-member business committee that governs the Ute Indian Tribe, Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation, Utah (Northern Utes).

A notice was posted for the recall of Irene Cuch, chairperson of the committee, while a similar effort is underway for another committee member, Stewart Pike, and still another, Richard Jenks Jr., has been suspended for 90 days for neglect of duty, Cuch confirmed.

The discord has existed in Northern Ute tribal affairs in one way or another over the last year, a time of energy and business development and expansion.

But, “Our business committee/council is in a mess,” said one observer, who contends that “Once they (council members under fire) see who signed the recalls, those people will be harassed” and their tribal jobs could be in jeopardy.

Asked for the purpose of the recall, “I don’t really understand the reason,” Cuch said. “They’re not specific on the charges—they need to be more specific. To me, it’s just more of an allegation that has no proof of misappropriation.”

The recall petition filed October 20 concerning Cuch alleges malfeasance, misappropriation of funds, and micromanagement of personnel. The reasons for recall were not available for Pike, who did not return a phone call asking for comment.

Jenks Jr. was suspended because of neglect of duty, Cuch said, contending he had excessive absences, including missed business committee meetings approximately 16 times since June.

A year ago, similar turmoil surrounded the ouster of former chairman Curtis Cesspooch from the business committee. He had survived several previous recall attempts as well as efforts to remove him from the tribal roll and threats of banishment or arrest.

Among issues dividing the leadership and tribe has been the location of a fish hatchery near a site sacred to many tribal members, tribal enrollment criteria, managerial styles, and other areas of disagreement.

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