Elect Tribal Officials Who Have Integrity

RST Constitution

By Vi Waln

The Primary Election on the Rosebud Reservation will be held on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Voters will choose several candidates to appear on the General Election ballot in August. There are ten tribal council representative seats open, as well as the four constitutional officer positions.

Technology has changed the way candidates are able to campaign. It has also helped tribal voters stay informed. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has been broadcasting tribal meetings on Channel 93, which can be accessed by several local residents who subscribe to cable services. Meetings are also live streamed on You Tube.

Candidates running for office were offered an opportunity to create a 60 second campaign advertisement. Those videos can now be viewed on the Tribe’s You Tube page. Archived videos of past council meetings, as well as a candidate forum, can also be accessed.

The ability to watch tribal council meetings live is appreciated by many. Elders and other people who often have no way to attend a tribal council meeting, but have access to cable television and the internet, can now watch their legislators conduct business. This is one advantage to having the meetings live streamed.

There are also disadvantages to watching televised tribal council meetings. For example, recently the tribal council approved a motion which would result in a cut in the amount of per diem they are paid. A cut in pay for elected officials is an issue which many tribal voters seem to favor.

However, there are tribal council members who have allegedly taken per diem advances all the way to the end of their term. This means they are not receiving a check for attending meetings anymore. So, while the motion to take a cut in pay looks good for the incumbents who are running for re-election, the reduction in per diem will only affect those tribal council members who are not maxed out in pay advances.

It’s a good campaign tactic to let your constituents believe you are taking a cut in your $40,000+ per diem rate, when in reality certain council members are not losing any of their pay at all because they have already received it in advances. The misleading of tribal voters by motions which only affect certain council members is one disadvantage to watching live streamed meetings.

On the other hand, another advantage to watching these televised meetings is tribal voters often get to see the true nature of their representatives. For instance, when the motion to take the cut in pay was discussed on the council floor, one tribal representative talked about how he didn’t feel it was fair that only they should have to accept a reduced per diem. He stated the tribal program directors and other employees should also take a cut in pay.

Just because the tribal council cannot seem to manage their money doesn’t mean they should be cutting tribal employees’ pay. The cash flow problems the tribe currently faces is not the fault of the program directors or employees. There are many program directors, as well as tribal employees, who have worked hard to complete either a Bachelor or Masters Degree.

Some tribal directors have also become very skilled at managing their program money. They have learned to plan for budget or end of fiscal year shortfalls. They should not be penalized for the inability of the tribal council to manage their own budgets. It’s not fair.

Another area tribal voters could think about before going to the polls next week is how well the tribal council has adhered to the Constitution. This document is what governs the entire Tribe. Our rights as tribal people are supposed to be guaranteed under the RST Constitution and Bylaws.

Still, the tribal council violated our constitutional rights earlier this year when they voted to remove a tribal president, who was elected by the people. I realize there are differences of opinion on this action and what is done is done. I’m not taking anyone’s side.

But, after studying the Constitution over the past several years, I still cannot find where the tribal council has the authority to remove a constitutional officer. As far as I can see, the authority to remove a tribal president is limited. The tribal council can remove one of their own members, but only the people who voted a president (or vice-president, treasurer or secretary) into office can petition to have him/her removed. The recall process should have been followed.

Another violation of our Constitution recently occurred when a Tribal Judge ruled in favor of a candidate whose eligibility to run for office was challenged. The Judge overruled the Election Board’s decision to disqualify this candidate from running because of a felony conviction on his criminal record. Does the Tribal Judge’s action open up future elections for convicted felons to run for office?

Tribal voters must be very careful when going to the polls on July 23. I will not be voting for any candidates who may further violate my rights as outlined in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Constitution & Bylaws. I will also not be voting for any candidates who are not eligible to be on the ballot because of their criminal record.

Our children deserve to have people of integrity elected to the governing body of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Let’s not disappoint them.

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