Chukchansi Tribe holds Tribal Council meeting and vote

COARSEGOLD, Calif.

It is the first time the tribe has reached a quorum to hold a general council meeting and vote.

Votes Saturday were being cast to decide who will fill one open seat on the tribal council. But many tribal members were turned away -- kept from voting, based on accusations of misconduct.

Tempers are still flaring around the Chukchansi Casino and Resort. Some tribal members claim they were kept from voting Saturday. Many were turned away from the polls and handed a letter explaining the ban. The letters claimed members were barred from the election because of their roll in the take over of tribal offices nearly two weeks ago.

One side claimed newly elected tribal council members should be seated in their positions. But the other side said the election process was not finished, since one council seat was contested - so the sitting council was still in charge. Violence sparked during the take over and left three people injured.

"This is no way to run a government, and it takes away from members of the tribe their rights," said Morris Reid with the Tribal Council.

Reid is part of the tribal faction that claims members of the tribe are being disenrolled, or kicked out, to sway the election process. "They thought they were going to win, but now that they lost they want to go through a second election."

But sitting Tribal Chairman Reggie Lewis says members who participated in the violence shouldn't be allowed to have their say. "You don't let vandals do that kind of stuff, that was tribal property. I'm at a loss to explain why the so-called leaders would allow something like that to happen."

A tribal spokesman told Action News, enough members showed up to the meeting to meet quorum Saturday. "We're in new territory there. This is the kind of situation the tribe hasn't had come up yet."

The general council decided the sitting council is still in power, and the council members selected in the December election will take their offices once the vacant seat is filled.

Several of the recently elected Tribal Council members may loose their seats since they are included in the group banned from tribal property.

There is still one open seat on council. The results are expected on Saturday night.

The tribe will now begin exploring how to set up a tribal court to better deal with these disputes.

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