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Tribal court reinstates chairwoman

VALLEY CENTER – A council member who took her chairman to a tribal court for removing her from the seat she was elected to won her case Feb. 11.

The judge, Anthony J. Brandenburg of the Intertribal Court of Southern California, ordered that Brandie Taylor be reinstated as vice chairwoman of the San Ysabel Band of Mission Indians. Taylor claimed in her complaint that Chairman Johnny Hernandez exceeded his power by stripping her title.

Brandenburg agreed citing that the supremacy of the due process clause in the tribe’s constitution supersedes the language in another clause that specifies the vice chair position serves at the “pleasure of the chairperson.” Brandenburg wrote that if Hernandez did interpret that clause literally, it would violate the will of the San Ysabel electorate and the “fundamental principles of due process.”

“Constitutionally elected officers cannot be dismissed ‘at will’ by anyone. Due process must be followed,” Brandenburg wrote.

Hernandez did not return requests for comment and Taylor could not be reached.

Brandenburg said the two clauses in the 650-member tribe’s constitution were “contradictory” and “conflicting” and that if the clause stipulating the chairman’s authority to unilaterally remove the vice chair be instituted it would “lead to a point of ridiculousness.”

“The chairman could simply keep dismissing any vice chair that did not agree with him or for any reason. What then would be the sense of even having a vice chair?” Brandenburg wrote.

His decision gave no specific explanation for Taylor’s removal. But it did say the two had clashed over differences on how to operate the tribal government, its 35,000-square-foot casino, Taylor’s role as the second in command and “personnel matters.”

Brandenburg denied Taylor’s request for damages for defamation that had resulted, according to her, from her removal. But he did grant her any back wages she may have lost during her forced absence. In addition, the judge ordered Hernandez to make aware her reinstatement to those who had been notified by him that she had been removed. As of Feb. 25, Taylor was not listed among those with an elected title on the tribe’s Web site.