Sunday's effort to oust the chief of the Seneca-Cayuga tribe has proved futile as the Court of Indian Offenses ruled the meeting to be “void.”
Today, Paul O. Spicer still stands as chief of the tribe, having again been unscathed by efforts to remove him from office.
Judge William Wantland, in a ruling issued Monday, declared all general council actions taken outside of the scope of the notice of the Nov. 10 single-item special general council meeting agenda, to be invalid.
On the day of the meeting, more than 200 tribal members, according to a taped video recording of a Nov. 10 special meeting of the tribe's general council, stood to their feet and used Robert's Rules of Order to take control of tribal business, censure the chief, seat a new grievance committee, empower the second chief and exercise their constitutional power as the tribe's “supreme governing body.”
Additionally, they agreed to reconvene Sunday to hear complaints against Spicer. It was at that re-convened special council meeting that the group voted to oust the chief of the tribe.
Their efforts - prompted by the chief's refusal to put their petitioned items on the Nov. 10 meeting agenda - were deemed invalid Monday. Items petitioned to Spicer for the agenda included the calling of the general council, the limiting of the power of the tribe's business committee, removing the grievance committee, appointment of a new grievance committee and the hearing of complaints against Spicer.
The only item considered for the Nov. 10 general council meeting was a matter regarding the funding of the claims committee.
Spicer told the court Monday that all other items proposed for the council meeting agenda violated either tribal, state or federal law and, by the duty of his office, has the responsibility to protect the best interests of the tribe.
Wantland, however, prompted attorneys representing Spicer's opposition to file a “writ of mandamus” - which orders a public agency or governmental body to perform an act required by law when it has neglected or refused to do so.
“Upon the filing of a motion for a writ of mandamus, a writ will be issued by this court, ordering a meeting of the general council for the purpose of a hearing to determine whether the present grievance committee should be removed,” Wantland said. “If removed upon a hearing, a new grievance committee is to be elected. Any complain filed against Paul Spicer as chief shall be filed with the grievance committee, which is to proceed in accordance with the 1993 grievance ordinance.”
Wantland indicated that grievance and election ordinances passed by the business committee in August and September of this year will not apply as their validity are still in question.
The planned meeting of the general council to be set by the court and the secretary/treasurer of the tribe will give the notice as directed, Wantland confirmed.
Tribal members return to the CFR court today to continue matters regarding regarding the rights and responsibilities of Second Chief Katie Birdsong and secretary/treasurer as tribal officials, their right to contact regulatory agencies and their role in the issuance of a $45,000 payment to attorney Scott Edwards to retain his legal services for the tribe's claims committee.