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Petitioners to seek Leech Lake Secretary/Treasurer Michael Bongo's removal from office

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

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe members of the group RIGHTS (Reclaiming Inherent Government Honoring Tribal Stability) will serve a petition to remove and/or recall LLBO Secretary-Treasurer Michael Bongo from the Leech Lake Reservation Business Committee also known as the Leech Lake Tribal Council at 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, at the Leech Lake Tribal Council headquarters, 6530 U.S. Highway 2 in Cass Lake.

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After the Leech Lake Reservation Business Committee approved the hiring of Minneapolis attorney David Lillehaug to conduct an investigation of the $2.4 million Band funds misappropriation by Bongo, and upon completion of the investigative report, the Leech Lake RBC held a public meeting Nov. 22 at the Palace Casino Bingo Hall and shared Lillehaug's investigation report with Band members.

Upon seeing attorney Lillehaug's evidence in the investigative report, tribal Band members vehemently opposed the Secretary-Treasurer's apparent misappropriation of $2.4 million in Band funds, and were previously prepared to circulate the removal petition, and subsequently, and informally, formed the group, RIGHTS to exercise their constitutional rights to remove Bongo.

According to a press release from RIGHTS, petition carriers successfully, acquired more than 920 signatures from tribal resident members. Article X of The Revised Constitution and By-laws of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe mandates that 20 percent of resident eligible voters who show cause for removal of a Tribal Council member can sign petitions which, currently, is about 630 enrolled resident band members who must be 18 years or older, and enrolled tribal member residents of the Leech Lake Reservation.

Causes for removal in Article X of Minnesota Chippewa Tribe constitution and petition removal/recall are: Malfeasance in the handling of tribal affairs; dereliction or neglect of duty; refusal to comply with the MCT Constitution provision, Article VI; and Violations of RBC Governing By-laws, i.e., Ordinance I.

According to Lillehaug's investigation, on Sept. 14, Bongo signed a loan agreement with the late Bill Bieloh of Moondance Jam and his wife, Kathy Bieloh for a term of 7 years at a rate of 8 percent interest. The loan was to be paid off in annual installments of $460,973.76 beginning Sept. 14, 2011. Such transactions require signatures of at least two Tribal Council members and Tribal Council approval. Bongo approved the loan on his signature alone and the bank transferred the funds to the Bielohs.

Security for the loan was real estate and a life insurance policy of $1 million on Bill Bieloh. However, Bieloh only took out $500,000 in life insurance at the time of the loan. Bill Bieloh died Sept. 24 of a massive heart attack.

The Tribal Council has hire attorney Zenas Baer of Hawley, Minn., to seek ways to recover the money.

Y mmiron@bemidjipioneer.com

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Pioneer staff reports
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