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Hearing held in Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe election challenge

On June 15, unsuccessful candidates in the June 8 Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe general election Donald Headbird and Deborah Tibbetts submitted a notice of contest in the election results.

A hearing on the contested election was held Thursday, June 24, at the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Headquarters in Cass Lake with Judge Heidi Drobnick presiding. Judge Drobnick closed the hearing to media representatives and non-Leech Lake Band members. Gary Frazer, Minnesota Chippewa Band director, said the closure was because the meeting room had legal occupancy for 100 people and the judge wanted to make sure all Leech Lake Band members who wanted to participate or witness the proceedings could be accommodated.

Headbird, who lost to incumbent Secretary-Treasurer Michael Bongo 1,202 to 1,399, and Tibbetts, who lost the District II Leech Lake Tribal Council position with 190 votes to the winner Steven White with 237 votes, alleged election violations against Bongo, District II Representative Lyman Losh, who did not run for re-election, and District I Representative Howe-Bebeau. The allegations include vote buying and other election irregularities.

Judge Drobnick is scheduled to announce a decision in the case today, according to Frazer. Former Tribal Attorney Frank Bibeau, who had been terminated from that position by Bongo, Losh and Howe-Bebeau, represented Tibbetts and Headbird.