From AP reports
TULSA — The Bureau of Indian Affairs does not recognize as valid a temporary retraining order issued by a Seneca-Cayuga tribal court order that nearly caused what some tribal officials called a hostile takeover by the tribe's disputed chief.
The order, issued last week, said the newly elected tribal government must return control of the tribal headquarters to Chief Paul Spicer. But Jeanette Hanna, the BIA’s regional director in Muskogee, said the agency does not recognize the order as valid.
The order stems from a lawsuit filed before the tribal court gained BIA recognition, she said. It was issued because the tribe's June 7 election results have not been certified.
Spicer filed the lawsuit, naming several tribal members, in October, but the BIA did not recognize the tribe's court system until Jan. 1.
After the court received recognition, the case was merged with other lawsuits filed by tribal members against Spicer early this year. After the court issued the order, Spicer went to the tribe's casino, ordered the general manager out and tried to take back control of the casino.
Spicer said regional BIA officials have interfered with the tribal election process and that he is appealing the regional bureau's decision to the BIA in Washington.
"During this, the BIA waffled; they kind of set me up," Spicer said. "The BIA has interfered with the tribal government to the point where I don't know if I can fix it or not."
More than a month after the elections, the tribal government remains in limbo. Chairman Jerry Crow of the tribe's election commission said he would not certify the election results unless so ordered by the tribal court's judge.
Hanna said the BIA has yet to decide which group it will recognize as the official government. She called the case a priority situation but said the agency has set no timetable to recognize an official government.
Newly elected Second Chief Katie Birdsong said the BIA’s decision not to recognize the temporary restraining order validated the June General Council meeting and the abolishment of the court, as well.
"We're continuing on with business, but we just need it over so we can move ahead without Paul Spicer coming back and saying he's the chief,” she said.
Allegations have flown between the two camps. They include financial improprieties, attempted coups, strong-arm and bullying tactics and a dispute over who started a brawl at a 2006 government meeting.
In May, the tribal court judge upheld an order barring any General Council meetings until the Spicer case could be resolved, delaying the tribe's constitutionally mandated June meeting.
But on the day scheduled for the June council meeting, more than 60 members of the tribes General Council met in Grove and passed legislation that, among other things, abolished the court system.