Former Northern Cheyenne president ekes out close win; tribal co - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT


Former Northern Cheyenne president ekes out close win; tribal council expresses 'dismay'

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LAME DEER -- After his removal from office in October, former Northern Cheyenne President L. Jace Killsback was re-elected on Tuesday in a narrow victory at the polls.

Tribal Councilman Benji Headswift and interim President Conrad Fisher issued a statement Wednesday calling Killsback disappointing and said they plan to take further action against him taking office.

"With dismay," the statement said, "L. Jace Killsback was re-elected as Northern Cheyenne Tribal president yesterday in a slim two-vote margin."

According to the certificate of reservation-wide general election results for tribal president, Killsback defeated his challenger, Donna Fisher, by just two votes.

The preliminary results show Killsback beating Fisher 541 to 539, with Killsback taking three of the reservation’s five districts.

Killsback lost handily in Ashland, winning just a quarter of that district’s votes. But he took more than half the votes in Lame Deer, Busby, Muddly Cluster and Birney.

There are 11,266 enrolled tribal members with about 5,012 living on the reservation, according to the tribal government website.

Killsback, who was first elected as the tribe’s president in November 2016, was ousted by the tribal council in October following a complaint from a council member.

The statement issued Wednesday by Headswift and Fisher states that new evidence reveals Killsback oversaw the transfer of thousands of dollars from the tribally-owned Tongue River Lumber Company to "several individuals, including himself."

The allegations include where Killsback submitted hotel receipts to receive unauthorized reimbursements from the tribe, gave himself large unapproved stipends, and approved other large payments that benefited himself.

Killsback has yet to respond to this new wave of allegations from the tribal council.

Killsback, though, has contended that the initial complaint that led to his removal was launched after he initiated an investigation into alleged fraud in the tribe's treasury department.

Killsback said the decision to remove him from office was retaliation by a relative of the person under investigation.

But the tribal council fired back, saying Killsback had no authority to conduct such an investigation.

That investigation, headed by the tribe’s comptroller, found no evidence of intentional fraud but did indicate serious inconsistencies in policy and procedure.

Killsback contested his removal, calling it “unlawful,” but the Bureau of Indian Affairs announced it supported the tribal council’s decision.

A special election was held, yielding Killsback and Fisher as the two candidates.

Election judges in each district signed off Tuesday on a declaration that Killsback won the election.

Once Killsback takes office again, he will carry out an abbreviated version of his previous term, which ends in 2020.

Conrad Fisher has been serving as interim president until a new leader could be elected.

Killsback was not immediately available for comment and Fisher and other members of tribal government have not returned requests for comment.

Killsback is set to take office Jan. 15, but the statement issued by the tribal council states that it will seek further preventative action.

RELATED: Northern Cheyenne Tribe ousts tribal president with apparent backing of BIA

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