Dissension among the ranks of a local Indian tribe remains evident today as conflicting agendas have been posted for an upcoming meeting.
Authors behind each of the opposing agendas are adament that only one is valid.
Chief Paul Spicer called a special meeting of the tribe's general council - in response to a petition of 30 or more tribal members. He subsequently posted a brief single-item agenda to address “the authority and funding of the tribe's Claims Committee.
In the meantime, having been advised in writing of Spicer's call for the Nov. 10 meeting, Seneca-Cayuga secretary/treasurer Kay Ellison began to set the order of business for the meeting.
Ellison's agenda takes the order of business beyond Spicer's single-item agenda and expands it to include additional discussion/action items.
“Secretary-Treasurer Ellison has received the chief's call for the meeting and, pursuant to her duties under the Constitution, she has prepared the order of business for the chief and is giving notice of the meeting, said Scott Edwards, a Miami attorney who represents Ellison in current litigation between his client and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe. “The items for the order of business are those in the petitioners petition and also include Chief Spicer's request for the Claims Committee funding and authority issue to be addressed.
The secretary/treasurer's posting includes the following:
Removal of Grievance Committee members: Janice Quick, Lindy Flickinger, Gary Crow and Joseph Rhatigan on a possible vote of no confidence.
If Grievance Committee is removed, then filing of vacancies of Grievance Committee members removed by a vote of the special general council.
Referral of grievance on Chief Spicer to the Grievance Committee.
The transaction of any other business.
Thomas Osterholt Jr., an attorney representing Spicer and the tribe, said Friday that Ellison's posting is invalid and her actions are improper - noting that the tribe's constitution defines the authority of all parties and what they can and can't do.
Requests for the calling of a general council meeting and a series of proposed agenda items were presented to Spicer in two petitions on Sept. 18. Remaining items of the petitions are still under review, according to Osterholt, and Spicer is expected to make an announcement this week as to whether or not he has concerns of their constitutional value.
Spicer's actions are prompted by the urging of Judge William Wantland who presided over a recent hearing in the Court of Indian Offenses. There, Wantland ordered Spicer to review petition(s) for a special general council meeting and call a meeting within 30 days.
Osterholt said Spicer is heeding the words of Wantland and is addressing the petitions separately. Spicer is expected this week to address a second call for a meeting.
“It is unfortunate that (petitioners) can't wait until then, Osterholt said.
In response to Osterholt's allegations that Ellison's posting is invalid, Edwards said “The Seneca-Cayuga Constitution could be more detailed in many areas, however, the secretary/treasurer's duties are plainly stated and unambiguous: (she) shall give notice of all meetings and “(she) shall make out the order of business for the chief.' I am not sure which part of the constitutional notice requirements Mr. Olsterholt doesn't understand, they are really quite simple and past administrations have never had difficulty in understanding how to give proper notice through their secretary. Arguably, any action taken by the general council that is not done with proper notice, by the secretary, would be invalid.
Edward's said he regards the secretary-treasurer's order of business as the official notice made in compliance with the tribe's constitution.
“Chief Spicer will have no authority for his notice. We regard Chief Spicer's notice as a request to the secretary-treasurer for an order of business to be placed on the agenda and it is one of the issues that was presented in the petitioners petition, therefore, it was placed on the notice, Edwards said.