Oglala College president suspended, Hearing set May 9

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KYLE, S.D. - Tom Short Bull, president of Oglala Lakota College, attended a trustees meeting to ask that two board members be removed and ended up suspended pending a hearing.

The hearing will be on what some of the board members said was disciplinary in nature, but until then he suspended on a motion introduced by Lawrence Janis which passed 6-5. Complaints against Short Bull followed a radio address in which he asked the board to remove two trustees because of unethical activity. Trustees who voted to suspend Short Bull said he should have come to the board with his complaints.

Short Bull said if the board does not remove Cordelia White Elk and Gerald 'Jump' Big Crow, it could buy out his contract. He accused White Elk of taking a headdress and moccasins said to have belonged Chief Big Foot's from Arlyn Knudsen for favors during a time embezzlement was taking place at the college. Knudsen pleaded guilty to the charges and is in prison.

Charges by Short Bull against Big Crow go back to 1981 when he allegedly did not pay back a loan to the school. Big Crow also is accused of harassing Short Bull for not allowing Big Crow's wife to apply for lost wages and compensation when she was suspended during a period of the investigation on the embezzlement.

Short Bull said he wasn't sure his suspension is legal because Big Crow and White Elk voted to suspend him while they each had been criticized for wrongdoing and hearing dates had been set for their actions. He said the vote not to suspend would then have been 5-4.

The radio address was proper and did not violate any policy of the college, Short Bull said, adding he had the authority to act solely to issue college press releases, so this was a similar action. 'There is nothing in the policy that prohibits public statements.'

He said his civil rights may have been violated in his suspension. 'They should have had a complaint against me.' The suspension was also not part of the regular agenda.

The suspension also did not follow policy and procedures of the college, he said. For an administrator to be suspended, it has to be shown his actions would be detrimental to staff and would obstruct operations of the college.

At a special April 18 meeting, White Elk said the headdress is in the hands of the FBI, which investigated the embezzlement. She also said the headdress was taken to a ceremony and it was determined it did not belong to Chief Big Foot.

The first motion to set a hearing date for White Elk and Big Crow failed on a 4-4 tie vote. A second motion by Lawrence Janis for the same hearings passed 10-0 vote. Janis came late and missed the first vote. A May 3 hearing is set for White Elk and Big Crow's hearing will be held May 10.

The special meeting was scheduled to deal with a motion introduced by White Elk to examine the chain of command at the college. She said there were complaints from students and faculty that indicated poor administrative procedures because of a questionable chain of command among faculty and administrative personnel.

Devona Lone Wolf, vice president for instruction, told the board that if they bought out Short Bull's contract they could buy her's out also. She added that five of the top-line administrators requested their contracts also be bought out.

In defense of Short Bull, she issued a criticism to the board of trustees for micro managing the college. She said the North Central Accreditation Board has expressed concerns about some tribal colleges where the boards micro manage the operations. The accreditation board said 'college boards are monsters in Indian country.'

Short Bull said the job of the board is oversight, not management.

The Eagle Nest District and the LaCreek District sent letters to the board in support of Short Bull.