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Lonetree ousted by membership

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. - Ho-Chunk president Jacob Lonetree was removed from office by the tribal general council.

The Oct. 21 general council meeting ended much the same as a meeting in 1996 when then-president Chloris Lowe was sent packing. The accusations against Lonetree centered around financial accountability, nepotism and lack of communication with the tribal membership and, in general, malfeasance in office.

Lonetree was presented with a petition Oct. 3 by Gloria Visintin, a former supporter. She said it was not a personal thing, but "he made mistakes. He may be honest, but he made some mistakes."

He is accused of hiring his brother-in-law as tribal treasurer, his brother as a personal aide, and another relative to edit the tribal newspaper. He was also accused of causing damage to a tribal vehicle on two occasions.

Lonetree was removed by a close vote of 599 in favor and 548 opposed with 88 abstentions.

Earlier Lonetree said he would not contest the council's decision, however, he has filed suit in tribal court contesting the final results. His attorney, Gary Montana, said the accusations of malfeasance were not substantiated. He also said the method used to serve Lonetree with the accusations and request for a general council meeting may not be proper according to the tribe's constitution.

The Ho-Chunk constitution states the general council, made up of eligible voters from among the total list of tribal members, has the power to remove the president and the legislators for malfeasance. It takes 20 percent of the eligible voters to make up a quorum for the general council.

At two previous meetings where the issue of the president was to take place there were not enough members to make up a quorum. The last meeting included a $100 stipend for each member that registered, the other two meetings did not.

Vice President Clarence Pettibone took over the office of president and will remain in office until the general election in June 2001. The office of vice president will be appointed from within the legislature and that seat will be filled by a special election within the district.

A smooth transition is expected and the constitution and tribal laws provide that none of the tribe's business enterprises is affected by the shake-up in government. The Ho-Chunk Nation owns three casinos in central Wisconsin and a high-stakes bingo operation in Madison. The word from inside the administration is that it's business as usual for the nation.

Lonetree did not respond to media questions.