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Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe: Judge ruling on election appealed

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Friday's ruling by Leech Lake Reservation Election Contest Judge Heidi Drobnick to invalidate the June 28 special secretary-treasurer election has been appealed by both the winning candidate and the Leech Lake General Reservation Election Board.

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Donald "Mick" Finn won the election by six votes over Donald "Donnie" Headbird, who contested the results, citing irregularities.

Now attorney Leif Rasmussen, of the Edina firm of Steffens and Rasmussen, has appealed the ruling on behalf of the General Reservation Election Board. And attorney Michael Garbow, of the Bemidji firm of Rodgers, Garbow and Jelokov, has appealed on behalf of Finn.

According to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Election Ordinance, the decision of the election contest judge is appealable to the Tribal Court of Election if the Band has by formal action conferred jurisdiction on the court. At a Feb. 18 meeting, the Leech Lake Reservation Business Committee, also known as the Tribal Council, approved the special election calendar, including the July 18 deadline for appeal to the Court of Election Appeals with July 25 the last day for a hearing. Minnesota Chippewa Tribe President Norman Des-Champe confirmed in a July 18 letter to Leech Lake Chairman Arthur "Archie" LaRose that the appeals are valid.

In the appeal on behalf of the General Reservation Election Board, Rasmussen said Drobnick made judicial errors. He wrote that these include accepting testimony by Band members who said they were denied their ability to vote and evidence regarding the voucher program and intimidation through a "Firing List." Rasmussen argues that these allegations have nothing to do with the General Reservation Election Board.

The appeal concludes: "All parties in connection with the election and the appeal of the election remarked that the GREB fulfilled its duties and responsibilities in conducting the Special Election held on June 28..."

In the appeal on behalf of Finn, Garbow noted that Drobnick, through her law firm, has a direct employer/employee relationship with two of the contest witnesses and a business relationship with attorney Rebecca Jo McConkey. McConkey represented Headbird in the contest. Garbow also wrote that Drobnick provided in her findings of fact allegations outside the control of the General Reservation Election Board.

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