Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Special Secretary/Treasurer Election Overturned
New Election Ordered
Leech Lake Reservation - A 2011 Band Election for the position of Secretary/Treasurer challenged results in two appeal decisions on whether a fair election had been held.
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe held a Special Tribal Election to fulfill a vacancy for Secretary/Treasurer a position formerly held By Michael J. Bongo who had been recalled by the Band voters for Election fraud and misappropriating tribal funds. In the Primary Election candidates Donald “Donnie” Headbird and Donald “Mick” Finn moved forward as the two candidates in the General Election July 28, 2011. In the General Election Mr. Headbird received total votes of 1098, and Mr. Finn received total votes of 1104. A difference of 6 votes. A recount of the votes was held on July 5, 2011 which upheld the previous tally. Mr. Headbird then filed his election contest on July 5, 2011 contending that there had numerous election irregularities.
Election Appeal Judge Heidi Drobnick ruled on July 15, 2011 that Election contestor Mr. Headbird had met his burden of proof. She wrote, “The evidence adduced in the contest of the final vote in this Special Election demonstrated that there were substantial irregularities and that the outcome of the election was affected so that the results of the election are determined to be INVALID.” The Judge ordered a new election.
The Judges ruling was appealed by the Election Board to the Leech Lake Band assigned jurisdiction to the Leech Lake Band’s Appellate Court where a three Judge panel on August 4, 2011 upheld her ruling. The three Judge panel wrote, “This Court finds that Candidate Finn’s conduct and the conduct of the parties in numbers 3-6 of the Finding of Fact constituted violations of the Ordinance and possibly other laws…such behaviors casts doubt upon the legitimacy of tribal elections and undermines the confidence of Band Members in their electoral systems…. Therefore, this Court finds that candidate Finn’s conduct and the conduct of the parties in the Findings of Fact numbers 3-6 constituted election irregularities and violations of the Ordinance, which were sufficient to change the outcome of the election…Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Courts to overturn any election where such behavior has impacted the election results and that is what the Election Judge did in this case…Based on the above analysis, this court affirms the order of the Election Judge that requires a Special Election to be held in strict compliance with the provisions of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribal Election Ordinance No. 10.
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Chairman Arthur “Archie” LaRose declared, “This is a great day for our Band and opens the way further to help us drive out the corruption and unethical behaviors that have infested our systems for so long. I think this sends a very strong message to our People that we will support all efforts to have open and honest government. I applaud the efforts of all those involved in the election process who came forward and stood their ground. It is a very hard and brave thing that people did coming forward it took tremendous courage to stand up against what they knew was wrong.”