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Northern Cheyenne Tribe ousts tribal president with apparent bac - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Northern Cheyenne Tribe ousts tribal president with apparent backing of BIA

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LAME DEER - The Northern Cheyenne Tribe issued a statement Tuesday defending its decision to oust President L. Jace Killsback earlier this month, while noting the Bureau of Indian Affairs agrees with the decision.

In a separate letter Tuesday, Killsback's attorney released his own letter stating he was "deeply troubled" by the BIA's statement and that the tribal council had acted improperly.

The tribal council took action Oct. 6 to remove Killsback from office, according to the Tuesday statement. Vice President Conrad Fisher will serve as interim president until a special election can be held, according to the statement.

A representative for the tribe refused Tuesday to provide additional information about the removal of Killsback, who was elected president in November 2016.

Killsback said Tuesday he initiated a fraud investigation that revealed the tribe's treasurer, who is the brother of the council member who filed for Killsback's removal, was operating a payroll advance scheme.

The tribal council's representative declined to provide a reason for the council's action against Killsback, but said a complaint was filed against Killsback and he was removed after he failed to attend a hearing on the accusations.

Killsback has contested his removal from office, arguing that the tribe's constitutional court ruled Oct. 5 that the petition to remove Killsback was “constitutionally deficient.”

The statement from the tribe’s media office insists that the decision to remove Killsback is legal and accuses Killsback of trying to create confusion.

Killsback has “attempted to create confusion and questions among tribal members, tribal employees and the general public regarding his removal from office,” according to the statement.

The tribe sought guidance from the BIA and received a response on Monday.

The BIA letter said: “The Bureau of Indian Affairs recognizes the authority of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council to take action to remove the Northern Cheyenne Tribal President and that the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council's action to do so is final pursuant to Article VII, Section 2 of the Amended Constitution and Bylaws of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.”

The legal counsel for Killsback sent a letter Tuesday to the BIA, taking issue with the department’s response.

“I am deeply troubled that your office has reversed its position on the effect of the Constitutional Court’s opinion,” said the letter from Bryan Newland, attorney for Killsback. “I am even more troubled that your office reversed its position based upon ex parte communications from the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council. Neither President Killsback nor I were made aware that you had received a legal memo from the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council, or that you were considering a change in position.”

Newland went on to say that the tribal council ignored the court order and acted unlawfully when it carried out a removal hearing the next day.

“That hearing was unlawful, and any claimed actions that took place afterward were void as a matter of law,” said Newland in the letter.

Newland also requested that the BIA withdraw its letter until “all internal tribal processes have been exhausted.”

The tribe's statement defending its actions states: “Tribal law provides an officer may be removed from office for failure to perform their assigned duties or acting with gross negligence in the performance of their duties.”

The tribe’s media office, though, declined to provide any information about why Killsback was removed from office and would not release any copy of a complaint apparently filed against the former chairman.

Newland said in his letter to the BIA that Killsback will file an appeal to the Regional Director and the Interior Board of Indian Appeals if the request is not answered.

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