Plans for the new Keweenaw Bay Indian Community casino in Baraga County could be delayed following a lawsuit against Tribal Council President Donald Shalifoe and Treasurer Eddy Edwards filed by former KBIC president Fred Dakota.
Dakota contended that the public referendum for the $2.75 million purchase of the Baraga Lakeside Inn held on August 2 was unconstitutional stating there was perceived intimidation to approve the purchase and that it should have been a private ballot.
At the hearing Monday afternoon, President Shalifoe??s and Edwards?? attorney filed to dismiss the case altogether citing Dakota had no proof that the council couldn??t hold a public ballot.
??The problem is, they believe there??s no law and point to conducting a public referendum, so it turns into a political question, and therefore it??s not justiciable by the court. Therefore, the plaintiff nor the court has any jurisdiction to tell the council on how to implement a constitutional doctrine that??s delegated to tribal council,?? explained KBIC Tribal Attorney Dan MacNeil.
Though the case is currently scheduled for another pretrial hearing Tuesday, September 2, during the hearing Monday, from which President Shalifoe and Edwards were absent and not required to attend, Chief Judge Bradley Dakota, Fred Dakota??s son, received a slew of text messages from President Shalifoe stating he and associate judge Violet Friisvall-Ayres, the presiding judge for the hearing, were suspended from their duties.
??I??ve been told that if we??re on court property that we??re trespassing, by him, now,?? said Judge Dakota. ??But I was elected by the people of this government to conduct law and order on this reservation and uphold the constitution, and I will continue to do so.??
??I??m not playing your games?|?? wrote Shalifoe, and, ???|you were elected to uphold the constitution?|??
Judge Dakota said he??s confused what Shalifoe??s reasoning behind the suspension is and said one was never given.
??I just feel that the tribal council president has no respect for our court system and is choosing to make up his own law, and I don??t think that he can just turn 40 years of law on its ear just because you don??t want to follow it,?? he said.
If Dakota??s and Ayres suspensions do pan out, the hearing could also be delayed along with the financial and planning decisions on the new casino.
President Shalifoe was unavailable for comment on the matter at this time; however, TV6 will continue to follow this case as it progresses.