Turtle Mountain leaders at odds


BELCOURT, N.D. (AP) – The leadership of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa is in dispute, with the chairman and the Tribal Council trying to remove each other.

Richard Marcellais, who also is a state senator from Belcourt, has been barred from tribal headquarters under a tribal judge’s order.

As chairman, Marcellais suspended the council July 10. Two days later, the council held an emergency meeting and voted 5-1 to oust Marcellais. The council resolution said he “chose to disrupt the democratic process by creating a dictatorship form of governance based on his independent action of July 10, 2009.”

Marcellais says that under the tribal constitution, he is still the chairman.

Council members Cindy Malaterre and Ted Henry say Marcellais has a history of conflict with the council and has refused to abide by its resolutions.

Henry said Marcellais disagreed with the council’s decision to hire a new manager at the tribal casino, citing nepotism. “There’s nepotism all over the place here. Every job, everybody’s related,” Henry said.

Marcellais’ profile on the state legislative Web site says he is the casino’s assistant general manager.

Marcellais said the council cannot remove him from power because a constitutional amendment forbids it. He said the tribal judge’s ruling was based on an old constitution.

Malaterre said the council will schedule a removal hearing to give Marcellais a chance to hear charges against him.

The reservation has a history of leadership turmoil. In 2004, one of the top finishers in the chairman’s race was challenged because of a misdemeanor conviction involving improper use of tribal money some 20 years earlier. In 2002, the acting tribal chairman and six others were indicted on charges ranging from embezzlement to witness tampering.

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