GREAT FALLS — The Blackfeet tribe’s chairman has reinstated two tribal council members after suspending two others, the latest round of turmoil in what has been a tumultuous year for the leadership of the northwestern Montana tribe.
Chairman Willie Sharp Jr. sent previously suspended council members Paul McEvers and William Old Chief letters on Monday saying their reinstatements were effective immediately.
Chairmen in the past have hired and fired personnel without being questioned, Sharp said.
Sharp said he is in unchartered waters in suspending and reinstating Blackfeet Tribal Business Council members through executive order, but “as the chairman I’m going forth with it.”
Last week Sharp suspended state Sen. Shannon Augare and Leonard Guardipee from the council.
Augare previously refused Sharp’s request to step aside while Augare faces federal charges of drunken-driving, reckless driving and obstruction of a peace officer related to a May traffic stop.
Augare said he would step down if the full council voted for him to do so.
Guardipee was suspended for not attending any meetings during a recent tribal business trip to Washington, D.C., Sharp said.
The suspensions have divided the tribal council, with Treasurer Roger “Sassy” Running Crane calling Sharp’s actions “uncalled for and illegal.”
Running Crane and his allies on the council — Augare, Guardipee and Earl Old Person — sent a memo on Monday ordering tribal programs and departments closed.
Sharp countered that by reinstating McEvers and Old Chief, both of whom had been suspended last year along with three other council members in an ongoing intra-tribal political feud.
McEvers and Old Chief were suspended in August 2012 after participating in an attempt to remove Sharp as chairman and install Old Chief in his place.
The council has been operating with only six of its nine members active.
McEvers declined to comment on his reinstatement.