Day two of the tensions in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community government has two tribal judges, who were suspended from their jobs Monday via text message, waiting to meet before the Tribal Council to have their suspension reviewed.
The two judges suspended, Chief Judge Brad Dakota and associate Judge Violet Ayres, have received formal documentation from Tribal President Don Shalifoe giving reason for their suspension as â??for unlawful interference with the operation of tribal affairs as approved by tribal councilâ?? for letting yesterdayâ??s civil lawsuit hearing be brought before the court in the first place, according to Shalifoe.
Dakota and Ayres were asked Tuesday morning to leave the courthouse building and refused, so Shalifoe had utilities and electricity shut off to the building. Tribal Police were going back and forth between the courthouse and the tribal center to ensure order was maintained throughout the day as emotions ran high.
The judges said all they want is their right to meet before the Tribal Council to have their suspension reviewed.
â??I donâ??t believe that the executive branch of our government has the authority to tell me that I have to leave,â?? said Dakota. â??All I want is my day before the entire tribal council, and if after that, the majority of people on tribal council still want me to step down, Iâ??ll step down.â??
The whole incident started Monday when President Shalifoe sent text messages to Dakota telling him he was suspended. Shalifoe sent those texts during his own civil lawsuit hearing in which plaintiff Fred Dakota is attempting to sue Shalifoe for holding a public referendum on the Baraga Lakeside Inn purchase.
Tuesday, Shalifoe said Dakota and Ayres were suspended because holding the hearing for the suit was unlawful to begin with.
â??The whole incident started with a member who would not go to council to air his concerns and created a lawsuit instead,â?? he said. â??It could have all been ended simply by coming to the Keweenaw Bay Tribal Council... We waited until yesterday for the implementation of it and for a possible decision to either dismiss it or back down, and it wasnâ??t. Therefore, I phone-polled Tribal Council and got their support to suspend them.â??
Dakota and Ayres have to wait to Thursday at the earliest to meet before the 12 tribal council members to argue their case against the suspension since the tribal constitution requires a three-day notice for all tribal council meetings.
Dakota said heâ??s never felt attacked like this in his 25 years as an elected official, and though Ayres declined to speak on camera, she even said the situation has a feeling similar to the KBIC turmoil in 1995.
â??There is a political coup by a few people on the tribal council that are trying to take over the entire government,â?? said Dakota.
But Shalifoe thinks otherwise.
â??No, I donâ??t think thereâ??s any other divisions,â?? he said.
â??Are you worred at all of any sort of turmoil or problems happening out of this situation?â?? I asked.
â??Well, I hope not. So, no, weâ??re not,â?? responded Shalifoe.
He said until the tribal council meets, Dakota and Ayres will remain suspended without pay.
As for the civil lawsuit hearing brought forth by Fred Dakota, Shalifoe said he expects that will possibly be brought before the tribal appellate court.
He also mentioned that tribal executives still have to discuss a budget for the construction of the new casino to bring before the tribal council to be approved, and if approved it will be brought before the people in a popular referendum.