By Joe Morey
At their Oct. 22 weekly meeting, the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board (TGB) unanimously passed the Pardon and Forgiveness Code of LCO tribal law, an ordinance providing a way for tribal members convicted of crimes or other reasons that may inhibit the member to find employment, housing or other benefits of membership.
The code states, the TGB hereby recognizes that the purpose of this ordinance is to provide a fair, efficient and formal process by which: (a) a Tribal citizen (member) may receive a pardon for the conviction of a crime(s); or (b) a Tribal citizen (member) or non-Tribal member may receive forgiveness for acts that render him or her ineligible for Tribal employment; an occupational license, certification or permit issued by the Tribe; a foster care license issued by the Tribe; or other Tribal benefit.
LCO Vice Chairwoman Lorraine Gouge said the TGB now has to appoint tribal members to the Pardon and Forgiveness Screening Committee, established in the Code.
“The members of this committee should have representation from the departments that will be involved in the process,” Gouge said. “These include Housing, Law Enforcement, the School, and all others. This is not just for felons or housing convictions, but for everyone affected.”
TGB member Tweed Shuman said he believes in giving a second chance. We have many people who are affected by these restrictions and this will help them. Other members of the TGB agreed.
The Code states it is now, “The policy of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians to grant pardons or forgiveness to individuals upon demonstration of full rehabilitation, trustworthiness and/or commitment to lawful behavior. Nothing contained herein shall be construed as permitting the employment of individuals who are otherwise disqualified for employment from certain occupations under Tribal, State or Federal Law. Receipt of a pardon or forgiveness does not affect obligations imposed as part of a sentence or conviction in another jurisdiction.”
The Screening Committee will act as an advisory board to the TGB for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this ordinance and shall have those powers as stated in this section.
“In the absence of an appointed Committee, the Tribal Governing Board shall effectuate the Committee’s purpose and responsibilities as detailed pursuant to this ordinance,” The Code states. “The Tribal Governing Board, by formal action, shall appoint a Liaison(s) which shall be appointed to facilitate communication and coordination between the Tribal Governing Board and the Board. The Tribal Governing Board Liaison(s) shall not be considered a member of the Board.”
The Code goes on to state some powers and duties of the Screening Committee, which include, to promulgate internal standard operating procedures necessary to govern its proceedings, review and process applications for a pardon or forgiveness in an orderly and expeditious manner, review an applicant’s background investigation report received from the Human Resources Department, conduct and preside over hearings, provide formal, written recommendations to the Tribal Governing Board to approve or deny a pardon or forgiveness application, and take other actions reasonably related to the purpose of the Committee.
The Code establishes the Screening Committee to have seven tribal members and no one from the council can sit on board as a voting member. The Code also states a member of the Screening Committee may not have any crimes against them and they must be at least 21 years old.