Referendums and the Right of Tribal Members to Sign Petitions
By Joe Morey
Over the past two weeks the LCO Public Relations Department has been contacted numerous times regarding a petition circulating that asks the LCO Tribal Governing Board to reverse their action to terminate LCO Health Center Director Sarah Cormell. The concern is whether tribal members may sign petitions when they work for tribal entities.
The right of tribal members to petition their government for the redress of grievances is a constitutional right articulated in Articles VI and VII of the LCO Constitution. The ability to engage this right is fundamental to the operation of the tribal government system and as a result is an integral aspect of tribal sovereignty.
The process for referendums is established in the Tribal Referendum Code.
Employees of the Tribe, who wish to engage in the referendum process should do so off the clock to ensure the process doesn’t interrupt government operations.
The cause of the petition was due to action of the TGB at their Sep. 9 meeting when a majority of the board consisting of the four newly-elected members voted to terminate the contract of the LCO Health Center Director, Sarah Cormell. LCO Secretary-Treasurer Michelle Beaudin made the motion to terminate Cormell and it was seconded by Glenda Barber. LCO Vice Chairwoman Lorraine Gouge was chairing the meeting as Chairman Louis Taylor was absent. Gary “Little Guy” Clause voted along with them while Tweed Shuman and Don Carley voted against.
The following Monday, Elders of the community who happen to be on the LCO Health Advisory Board, attended the meeting and expressed their unhappiness with the decision to remove Cormell citing that she had made noticeable improvements to the clinic. Shuman asked for a reconsideration of the termination and Beaudin, Gouge and Clause all voted to continue with the termination. Barber was absent the meeting.
Read previous story here https://www.lcotribe.com/post/split-governing-board-over-termination-of-health-director
Now Elders in the LCO Community are circulating a petition which, according to the tribal constitution, would ask for a vote to rescind the decision of the TGB. The constitution requires 100 signatures asking for a referendum to overturn their decision. Once a referendum is held, a majority vote of at least 200 registered voters would overturn the TGB action.
Mona Ingerson, of the LCO Health Advisory Board, said they are close to the required 100 signatures but want to reach 200, as is the number required in a vote. Ingerson said LCO Community members who feel Cormell was unjustly fired are encouraged to stop by Koobie’s Coffee or Kinnamon Musuem to sign the petition.
The petition being circulated states the LCO Community has been plunged into a Public Health Emergency situation. The petition states several reasons including;
“Sarah has been instrumental in the negotiations for a new state-of-the-art clinic and assisted living facility through Indian Health Service joint venture funding. She is well liked and well versed in what is required to complete the applications, first one which is due on October 11.
“We have just entered into the Wellness Court project which works to help our people with addictions instead of punishing them. A key component is the MAT program. We have just received an extension through November. We were in danger of losing the grant because the rule weren’t being followed. Sarah made corrections. With Sarah gone, no one can be admitted to the program. If people are not in the MAT program, they cannot be sent to treatment. There is no one to sign the required documents.
“Under Sarah’s direction, more people with addictions are being helped. Those with diabetes are seeing their numbers improve because of the programs put in place.
“The lab has been under equipped and under staffed. We all have had to wait while samples were sent out. Sarah reviewed our needs and petitioned for an expanded lab.”
Read the full petition at one of the two locations listed where tribal members can sign.
The petition also states there are two reasons why Cormell was terminated including that she didn’t carry out a directive soon enough, which was terminating the contract of a consultant, and the other stated Cormell shared personnel information with the LCO Health Advisory Board. The petition states that the board does not work with personnel issues but are informed of personnel changes.
Here is the Section of the Tribal Referendum Code regarding petitions;
§ 2.303 Submission by Petition of Qualified Voters.
(1) A legislative enactment or proposed enactment of the Tribal Governing Board shall
be submitted to a popular referendum upon petition of at least one hundred (100) qualified voters of the Tribe presented to the Tribal Governing Board at a regular meeting of the Tribal
Governing Board in accordance with this section.
(2) The petition submitted shall be in substantially the following form:
“WE, THE UNDERSIGNED QUALIFIED VOTERS OF THE TRIBE, REQUEST A REFERENDUM ON [NAME OF LEGISLATIVE ENACTMENT AND NUMBER OF RESOLUTION ENACTING SUCH LEGISLATION, OR NAME OF PROPOSED ENACTMENT] ENACTED [OR REJECTED] BY THE TRIBAL GOVERNING BOARD ON [DATE OF ENACTMENT OR REJECTION].”
(3) The petition shall bear the signature, printed name, address, and enrollment number of
each signatory in legible form. The name and address of the person(s) circulating the petition shall also be included. The person circulating the petition shall, through an affidavit, subscribe and swear before a notary of public, that each of the names on the petition were signed and the name, address and enrollment number were printed in the presence of the qualified voter and circulator, and that it is his/her belief each signer was a qualified voter of the Tribe. The absence of a printed name shall invalidate that signature. Signatures and handwriting comparisons may be made.
(3) All petitions must be received at the main administrative office of the Tribe, 13394 W
Trepania Road, Hayward, WI 54843, by no later than the close of business of the next business day following the expiration of sixty (60) calendar days from the date of the legislative enactment or proposed enactment of the Tribal Governing Board which is the subject of the petition. This provision is mandatory and jurisdictional. Each petition submitted must contain the original signatures; no copies, duplications or facsimiles may be submitted.
(4) As soon as practicable after receipt of a petition, the Secretary shall consult with the
Citizen Services Department whom shall review Tribal voter registration records to determine
whether the petition contains the requisite number of signatures. Upon completion of the review by the Citizen Services Department, the Secretary shall report to the Tribal Governing Board on the matter at its next regular meeting or a special meeting called for that purpose. Such review must be complete within a sufficient time to allow the Tribal Governing Board to determine the validity of the petition within the sixty (60) day timeframes specified in subsection (5) below.
(5) The Tribal Governing Board shall determine whether the petition is valid no later than
sixty (60) days after receipt of the petition. If the petition is determined to be valid, the Election Committee as established pursuant to 5 LCOTCL § 1.304 (3) shall hold such referendum within ninety (90) days of the regular Tribal Governing Board meeting where the petition was received. Regardless of whether the petition is valid or not, the Secretary shall keep the original petition(s) on file at least until the time for contesting the validity of the referendum has expired. The Secretary shall allow interested citizens with the opportunity to examine the original referendum.
(6) The referendum question on the ballot shall be worded substantially as follows:
"DO YOU APPROVE OR DISAPPROVED OF [NAME OF LEGISLATIVE
ENACTMENT AND NUMBER OF RESOLUTION ENACTING SUCH
LEGISLATION, OR NAME OF PROPOSED ENACTMENT]?
_____ APPROVE _____ DISAPPROVE"
(7) The Tribal Governing Board may, in its sole discretion, suspend the legislative
enactment or proposed enactment which is the subject of the referendum petition pending the referendum election. If the Tribal Governing Board does not act affirmatively to suspend such legislative enactment, it shall continue in effect during the pendency of the referendum election.