A posted notice of a special grievance committee meeting of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe is a bogus document, according to Chief Paul Spicer. Other tribal leaders, however, say it is legitimate and a newly appointed grievance committee will lead today's hearing.
Notice of the hearing, presented on tribal letterhead and announcing a 4:30 p.m. special meeting and grievance hearing, indicates that a formal grievance has been filed by the tribe's general council alleging “misconduct and gross negligence” in regard to the duties of Chief Paul Spicer.
In Thursday's edition, the News-Record announced the meeting after receiving a hand-delivered notice of the event. The document, according to tribal officials, replicates tribal stationery, but did not come from the tribe.
Established grievance committee officials say, however, no meeting has been called and no formal grievance has been filed against Spicer.
Katie Birdsong, second chief of the tribe, confirmed today that the hearing will continue as planned.
Gary Crow, a member of the established grievance committee and public relations and media specialist for the tribe, said notice was posted on the front door of the Seneca-Cayuga office - but, not by the tribe's grievance committee.
Crow, along with grievance established committee members Lindy Flickinger, Joseph Rhatigan and chairwoman Janice Quick, issued a written, signed statement Thursday which reads “We, the members of the duly elected and sworn grievance committee of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma … have received no formal grievance against Chief Paul Spicer nor have we called any grievance hearing or special meeting to address the said grievance.”
Spicer said today that a faction of 30 to 45 tribal members is attempting to “hijack” tribal government because they have not been successful in garnering the support of tribal membership.
“This is a splinter group that cannot win at the ballot box, so they are trying to steal the election by creating a fictitious organization,” Spicer said.
The turmoil follows the annual election of tribal officers and general council meeting held June 2. On that day, Spicer retained his position of chief after receiving more than half of the votes of the tribe's membership.
According to Spicer, after the meeting was adjourned, Birdsong unconstitutionally re-opened the meeting and proceeded with actions that the dissident group now uses to legitimize its claims that a new grievance committee has been established.
Birdsong said today that she did not re-open the meeting. She said she took the lead, at the request of the general council, after Spicer moved to adjourn the meeting. A motion to adjourn was made and seconded, according to Birdsong, but the second was rescinded.
“The meeting never stopped and there was no recess,” Birdsong said.
Spicer said the second chief does have the authority to convene a meeting of the general council, but only in the absence of the chief.
“‘Absence' means that I have either died, am incapacitated, removed from office or have resigned,” Spicer said.
Spicer said he sat through Birdsong's meeting, and attempted to tell the group that their actions were unconstitutional.
“I did what I thought was right for the people of the tribe,” Birdsong said. “I was not trying to be against anybody or takes side. I went on with the meeting because that was the right thing to do.”
The meeting resulted in the election of a new grievance committee as well as a new election committee.
Additionally, the election committee has voted to set aside the June 2 election and set a new election for Aug. 7.
Seven allegations of misconduct against Spicer have been submitted to the newly appointed grievance committee, according to Sandra Kingston, who is the chairwoman of the new election committee. The complaints against Spicer were made in regard to his allegedly obtaining membership rolls without having obtained the right to do so through a resolution of the general council.
“The official tribal voting list was released and used by a select few of the candidates in violation of tribal law, giving an unfair advantage to those select few candidates,” Kingston read from a document provided as the election committee reviewed the allegations. “Subsequently, no evidence shows a general council approval by resolution as required has been given to any candidate to have use of the enrollment of voting rolls of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe. This unfair advantage could have definitely affected the outcome of the election.”
Kingston confirmed the election committee's ultimate decision to call for a new election.
“Never in the history of our tribe had we had in excess of 800 absentee request for ballots,” Kingston said. “So, Mr. Spicer won, not by walking into the polls, but by having in excess of more than 400 absentee ballot votes.”
Spicer said he did receive a notice that a grievance has been filed against him, but refused to respond.
“I will not recognize this fictitious group,” Spicer said.
Within days of being served the grievance notice, according to Spicer, he saw the News-Record's report of the planned hearing.
“According to our constitution, anyone who has a notice of grievance filed against them has 45 days to appear before the grievance committee,” Spicer said. “That allows the committee to determine if the grievance is legitimate. However, with me, they went straight to the hearing in less than five days and skipped part of the process.”
Spicer said a formal grievance has now been filed against Birdsong and a restraining order issued. The tribe is also redesigning its letterhead and taking measures to insure that it cannot be duplicated.
“This is politics at its absolute worst,” Spicer said. “It is distracting, expensive and it takes the focus of our energy away from tribal business.”
Kingston said the events of the last week are evidence of a dissatisfied membership speaking out.
“People are speaking up,” Kingston said. “That is what happened on Saturday at general council - the people are speaking up and taking back their tribe.”