Redding Record Searchlight

Dissident members vote to overthrow some Pit River leaders

By Kimberly Ross
Thursday, April 5, 2007

BURNEY -- An attempt to overthrow the Pit River Tribe's government was the focus of an unofficial meeting of dissident tribal members and nonmembers, tribal Administrator Robert Boyce Sr. said Wednesday.

The nonsanctioned meeting included votes to oust several of the tribal council's 10 members, fire Boyce and return control of financial and tribal affairs to Tribal Chairwoman Jessica Jim, Boyce said.

The meeting, held Saturday in Burney's VFW Hall, did not meet the 2,400-member tribe's 30-day notification requirement or get sent to all tribe or election committee members, as required, Boyce said.

"They handpicked who they wanted to be there," he said. The meeting's decisions are not considered lawful by the tribe's election committee or most members, he said.

Jim said the meeting was legal, attended by more than 50 people and seven council members, and called for by a petition bearing 96 verifiable signatures.

Jim said the Saturday meeting's organizers spent their own money to mail and hand-address the notices, which were mailed a few days before the meeting. Members who live in the same household got one notice to save money and time, she said.

Jim said she and others think the council is keeping financial information from the general membership. Also, some tribal members, including three or four council members, are bullying and intimidating other members, Jim said.

"Our members are stepping forward ... and our government is turning a deaf ear. And the people that are doing the threatening are in our government," she said.

She would not say Wednesday which council members are allegedly acting inappropriately, however, or who had been voted out in Saturday's meeting. Jim said she hopes to say more today, after meetings with other Indian agencies she did not want to name.

Jim was relieved of supervising tribal administration and finance and stripped of her signing power, but not her title, on Aug. 14. Poor finances plagued the tribe in early 2006 and Jim's "dictatorship" management style made it hard to retain employees, Boyce said.

The tribe was late in filing 1099 tax forms, leading to a $120,000 fine from the IRS. An independent audit is done annually, and a 2006 audit is just beginning, Boyce said.

Boyce said he knows of no threats by council members and made it clear last month that no one's job would be threatened for disagreeing with the tribal government. "Everybody has the right to their political views," he said.

He had heard that five council members and one alternate were voted out in Saturday's meeting, but he could not confirm that and had not been given names, he said Wednesday.

About half of those who attended are thought to be members of two families who were disenrolled from the tribe this fall for not being descendants of its base members, Boyce said.

He said members can question the tribal government and call for a general membership meeting by gathering 50 signatures from registered member-voters. But the tribe's policy is to do so through a three-member elections committee, not through the tribal chairperson.

Meanwhile, a general membership meeting is scheduled for May 19 in Alturas, when finances as well as Saturday's meeting will be discussed and could lead to consequences for Jim, Boyce said.

On Monday, the council agreed a press release should be sent about Saturday's unofficial meeting. It's part of a larger effort to communicate better with the surrounding community and its tribal members, Boyce said.

The council also agreed to ban Jim from the tribal office after she and her sister came in "screaming and ranting and raving" at employees earlier that morning, prompting sheriff's deputies to arrive, Boyce said.

Jim said conflicts in the past week led her to file for restraining orders. She's not pleased to see conflicts within the tribe, either.

"It's a sad day for me," she said, "because I love my people, and I don't like to see this intertribal dispute going on."