BOX ELDER, Mont. (AP) _ The Chippewa Cree tribe will make a second attempt to elect a new chairman Tuesday, two months after the first special election was canceled when an ousted leader challenged his disqualification as a candidate.
Six candidates are vying for the position, and that list includes former chairman Ken Blatt St. Marks.
The Chippewa Cree Tribal Business Committee removed St. Marks in March after accusing him of neglect of duty and gross misconduct. St. Marks disputed the allegations, saying he was targeted for cooperating in a federal corruption investigation on the Rocky Boy’s reservation.
Enrolled members of the tribe can choose from among St. Marks, interim chairman Ricky Morsette, state Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, Curtis Monteau Jr., Luanne Belcourt and Bert Corcoran.
Absentee voting began last week and ends Monday. The polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Stone Child College.
The tribe’s election board halted the first special election in May after St. Marks filed a complaint about the board’s decision to remove him as a candidate.
The board at the time cited a tribal ordinance from 1966 that said any person removed from the business committee for neglect of duty within the past two years is not qualified to be a candidate.
St. Marks challenged the decision in tribal court. A clerk said at the time that court proceedings are sealed, but St. Marks’ name is on the current candidate list.
St. Marks is joined on the ballot by one of the council members who voted to remove him, Morsette. He has been on the council for eight years, was the director of the tribe’s utilities department and is a cattle rancher, according to a biography on the tribe’s website.
Windy Boy spent 12 years on the governing council and has been in the Montana Legislature for more than 10 years, according to his biography.
Monteau has a degree in natural resources conservation from the University of Montana, pledges a strong work ethic and says he has a solid understanding of the relationship between the tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Belcourt is an economic developer with the tribe’s planning and development department, co-manager of the Square Butte Trading Post and a former president of Stone Child College.
Corcoran has been the superintendent of schools on the reservation for 15 years and is a past tribal chairman.