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Ousted Kickapoo officers file motion to set aside orders from Nation's District Court

HORTON, Kan. - Ousted Kickapoo officials have filed a motion to set aside contempt and temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions with the District Court of the Kickapoo Nation.

Steve Cadue and Thelma Simon were initially suspended from their positions as chairman and vice chairwoman earlier this year. The two were then ordered by Kickapoo District Judge Peter Beekman to cease representing themselves as tribal leaders and later were removed from the tribal council following a hearing by the present tribal council.

Steve Cadue said neither he nor Simon could afford legal representation in their case and thus the filing was delayed. "We knew we were right, but we couldn't pay for attorneys. We were finally able to get an attorney when people donated money to help us," Cadue said.

Neither Cadue nor Simon has received any salary from their elected positions on council since January.

Both maintain their removal was not legal and did not follow the Kickapoo Constitution. In court documents, Cadue and Simon requested that the judge hearing their earlier case, Judge Peter Beekman, disqualify himself from the present case. They supported their request citing Title 9 Section 111 of the Kickapoo Nation Tribal Code which says the court (judge) cannot hear any case when he has a direct financial interest.

Cadue and Simon allege that because the tribal council failed to agree on a 2000 budget, Beekman was in danger of losing his salary. Because of that, he had a direct financial interest in the outcome of the conflict between tribal council members. In an earlier interview with Indian Country Today, Beekman said those charges were untrue.

The court documents stated that Charley Laman, council for four of the tribal council members and/or the Nation, has signed pleadings in the case under the guise of Kickapoo Legal Services. The documents charge Laman has a clear conflict of interest under existing terms of his employment and must be removed as the counsel for the plaintiff, the current Kickapoo council.

At a recent general council meeting, Cadue warned those presently sitting on the tribal council that Charley Laman was in direct conflict of interest. Cadue said Laman originally had been advising him and then worked with opposing members of the tribal council to have him removed from office.

"We're finally going to have our day in court and we're able to, once and for all, prove the unconstitutional violations ... we've also asked that Judge Beekman be disqualified from hearing the case," Cadue said. "We had a tribal meeting Saturday and Charley Laman's conflict of interest was discussed. I told Nancy Bear and that group that they were all wrong, they were illegal.

"I also told them they were also involved with an unethical attorney in Charles Laman. I told them they would ruin their reputations for 'the rest of your lives and you are going to harm the Kickapoo Nation greatly for following the advice of Charles Laman.'

"What they need to understand is that he gave me advice that those people, you know Nancy Bear and John Tomas, were wrong about many issues. He is an attorney who now represents them against Thelma Simon and I.

"He had previously had provided information and advice to me that they were wrong. One of which was the Willie Nelson contract, where they had hired Mario Gonzales." He referred to a $2 million dollar venture between Willie Nelson's Cowboys and Indians Network in which former Kickapoo Nation attorney Mario Gonzales was found to be in conflict of interest.

"Why that's important is that it is one of the big problems facing the tribe, the loss of that 2 million dollars."

Cadue said he believes part of the ongoing conflict between tribal council members has been because of bad advice Laman gave those currently on the Kickapoo Tribal Council. " ... He does not abide or understand the Kickapoo Constitution and they are following his advice."

Both Cadue and Simon said they were concerned about the illegal use of tribal funds since the present council is illegal, thus any expenditure of funds has been illegal and unconstitutional. "They are expending funds without proper authorizations because they are not a properly constituted tribal council," Cadue said.

Cadue also said a petition circulating among Kickapoo tribal members should soon be turned into the Horton BIA Agency office. It is for a recall regarding the removal of Cadue and Simon from their offices on the Kickapoo Tribal Council.

John Kurth, the attorney representing Cadue and Simon said an Aug. 10 court date had been set. "We are filing stuff because what the judge has done is unconstitutional. The constitution is pretty clear on how a tribal council member should be removed. We also don't believe he should be taking any action or even hearing the case, because he has a financial interest on the outcome of it, that being the budget." Kurth said.

Since the tribe pays all tribal judges, Kurth believes that a special judge should be appointed in this particular case and said it was done all the time in state courts.

"We also have a problem with Mr. Laman advising them," Kurth said, "He had been giving advice to Steve about this and then he turned around and filed against Steve. He isn't supposed to be there to file suit or do anything for the council or the tribe, he is supposed to be defending indigent Native Americans, that's all."

Kurth maintains Laman has not been approved by the BIA as required by the Kickapoo constitution.

Asked if he thought Judge Beekman would hear the case, Kurth said he didn't believe so. Kurth was formerly prosecuting attorney for the Kickapoo District Court and worked with Judge Beekman. "It's nothing against the judge. I've been in front of him. I have a lot of respect for him, but in this particular instance we feel that a disinterested court should hear this."

Kurth believes both Simon and Cadue will be restored to their offices following their day in court. "I just hope we get results so the Kickapoo can get going again. These things can drag out because of all the legal shuffling. It is serious when you are trying to govern a nation. It is unique; there are council members trying to oust others, the constitution is pretty clear on how that should be done. I've never seen anything like this before."

Laman was out of his office and unavailable for comment.