AGENCY VILLAGE, S.D. – Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribal Chairman J.C. Crawford has been removed from office and will not be allowed to complete his first term.
In a closed session, the tribal council voted Crawford out of office by a 5 – 2 margin, with one abstention.
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate District Chairman’s Association had filed a complaint against Crawford with the tribal council, accusing him of the misappropriation of some $698,000 since 2003 at different times and for different incidents.
Crawford was suspended following the filing of complaints prior to the March 10 hearing that removed him from office.
Crawford said the removal was completely political and that he was the victim of an agenda. He presented the council with documentation that accounted for every dollar he said the complaints listed.
“I don’t know where I went wrong. I can account for every penny; I didn’t walk away with any money,” Crawford said.
He claims his right to due process was violated, which could open the door for a lawsuit. Crawford said he chooses not to file a suit at this time.
He emphasized more than once during an interview that he wanted tribal members to know he did not take any money.
He was charged with seven counts of misappropriation of funds and malfeasance. Four counts were thrown out. The tribal council’s executive committee would not make any of the deliberation and reasoning public.
Crawford said he thought he angered the tribal council when he broke a tie vote that negated a move by the council to acquire pay raises. That happened just three or four months into his term of office. The council came back to the issue and gave themselves raises a few months later.
The complaints claimed that Crawford overspent on travel, did not submit credit card receipts in a timely manner, unilaterally authorized payment to a consulting company, paid a television company to help promote the tribe, purchased an arbor for the pow wow grounds and authorized honorariums for tribal chairmen who attended the pow wow.
Documents submitted to the tribal council before the hearing on March 10 detailed expenditures and also submitted evidence of tribal actions by resolution that approved of or authorized payments or contractual agreements.
A television company, Platinum Television Group of Florida, was to include the Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe in promotional films to point out the opportunities to prospective businesses. Crawford stated in his arguments that the $19,000 that was to be appropriated for the project was approved by the council, and cited the resolution.
Red Nation Consulting Services was contracted by Crawford to develop grant applications and research. The accusations claimed he failed to acquire the necessary approval; however, according to the documents he submitted, the council approved of the arrangement and also approved continued payments to Red Nation in the total amount near $283,000.
Grants through that contract, he said, brought in $3.4 million.
“Every invoice had been approved,” Crawford said.
Some travel expenses amounted to $1,200 or $1,300 per trip. He said he was authorized by tribal resolution to spend $5,000 per trip.
Crawford wanted people to know that Sisseton-Wahpeton is not a “cancerous” place. He also said he would be working with a collective tribal organization and did not rule out another run for chairman in the future.
“The council didn’t want to do a criminal investigation. I welcomed it,” he said.
“Some people think I stole from them. I can account for every penny.
“I still have pride in the tribe,” he said.