Pyramid Lake Tribal Members Seek Recall of Council Officials for Alleged Election Violations

Published December 30, 2018

NIXON, Nev. — The Pyramid Lake Tribal Members Association, a voluntary group of concerned tribal members and elders, has filed a recall petition against several members of the Tribal Council for alleged violations of the Tribe’s constitution and by-laws, and for failure to protect the rights and interests of the tribal members.  Those named in the recall are: Vinton Hawley, Alan Mandell, John Guerrero, Cassandra Darrough, Sharon Keever, Nathan Dunn, and Judith Davis.  The petition also demands a referendum vote on an election ordinance enacted by the Tribal Council in 2017 and a subsequent amendment in 2018.

The Association has also filed for an emergency injunction with the Pyramid Lake Tribal Court and attended a hearing on December 22, 2018 to stop the current 2018 election process.  The Chief Judge on December 20, 2018 issued an order of recusal claiming to the appearance of impropriety and ordered the court administrator to assign the case to a pro tem judge to preside over the case to its conclusion.

The Association did not receive a stamped copy of its emergency injunction petition from the tribal court until December 24, 2018 which was two days after the Association appeared in court on December 22, 2018.  According to court staff a hand carried copy of the Association’s filing was delivered to the Tribal Council/Administration on December 17, 2018.  The Association had no reference as to its filing during the court hearing as evidenced by the post-marked envelope.

The Association is at a complete loss regarding the lack of decision by the pro tem judge that was allowed to hear the case making such statements as, “he was not allowed to make a decision in the case as it would be invalid because he had no authority to make such a decision.”

The 2018 election process started with an unconstitutional primary election which eliminated candidates who did not receive enough votes to continue on to the general election.  In 2017, the Tribal Council enacted its election ordinance which resulted in several conflicts with the Tribe’s constitution and by-laws.  The ordinance was amended in August, 2018 and required approval by the Secretary of the Interior; however, the Association was unable to verify whether or not the ordinance and its amendment were in fact approved as required.  A Freedom of Information Act request for the approved ordinance and subsequent amendment was filed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Western Regional Office but is under review as of this writing.

The election ordinance enacted by the Tribal Council created disparity by imposing illegal fees to run for office and lacked basic due process rights in its background investigation process in addition to the conflicts with the Tribe’s constitution and by-laws.  There are also several conflicts of interest with those conducting the background investigations and the candidates running for office.  The Tribe does not currently have an ethics code in place which is greatly needed as demonstrated in this year’s election process.

The Tribal Council’s recent actions have caused a serious liability for the Tribe, and the Tribal Court did not address or make a decision on the Indian Civil Rights Act violations of due process and equal protection which are cited in the Association’s emergency injunction petition.  Because the Association filed an emergency petition for an injunction, the Court had 72 hours to act on the petition and failed to meet the deadline.  The Tribe has also failed to issue a written response to the election challenge filed back in November and heard on December 7, 2018.  After careful consideration and due to a lack of response by the Court and Tribe, the Association will be pursuing the matter in the appellate court.

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