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Lawsuit challenges Leech Lake chairman; Criminal history status resolved by Tribal Council resolution

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Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

On Friday, several Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe members served a lawsuit in Leech Lake Tribal Court challenging the legality of Chairman George Goggleye's term of office.

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On Nov. 22, an election amended the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution to bar anyone convicted of a felony from seeking election. The amendment took effect Jan. 1.

Goggleye was convicted of felony fifth-degree assault in November 1993, given a stay of imposition and was sentenced to 90 days in jail in accordance with a misdemeanor conviction.

The Leech Lake Tribal Council passed a resolution stating that for elected officials, the Minnesota Codified Law would define eligibility.

"Convictions that state on their criminal history record that are deemed misdemeanors shall be deemed misdemeanors for certification purposes," said Michael Garbow, Leech Lake tribal attorney.

Consequently, Garbow said, Goggleye doesn't have a felony record.

Arthur "Archie" LaRose, who was convicted of third-degree assault in relation to a 1991 incident, has the same status. Garbow said LaRose was certified to run for secretary/treasurer because he was sentenced to 60 days in jail as having committed a misdemeanor.

LaRose will runoff against Burton "Luke" Wilson in the June 13 general election.

Lawrence "Sandy" Gotchie, Wallace Storbakken, Dale Greene and "other Band members" are plaintiffs in the suit to extinguish Goggleye's term of office because of the conviction. They alleged in the complaint that Goggleye's chairmanship violates the Constitution, and Leech Lake Band members' equal rights, equal protection and equal opportunities "which includes a felon free RBC (Reservation Business Committee, aka Tribal Council) and a chance to be a candidate to fill the new vacancy for LLRBC Chairman."

The plaintiffs' attorney, Frank Bibeau, previously filed suit for a restraining order to halt the elections for secretary/treasurer and district representatives June 13 on grounds that background checks and a $50 fee violated the Constitution.

Leech Lake Tribal Court Judge Anita Fineday ruled against the petition on Feb. 20.

Goggleye was inaugurated in July 2004. His term will be up in 2008.

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