GREAT FALLS — Ten Blackfeet tribal members are claiming they have seats on the nine-member Tribal Business Council after a council member was removed, replaced and then voted with four others to return himself to the board.
Councilman Bill OldChief said that a group of five council members voted Monday to return Jay St. Goddard to his post. St. Goddard had argued that he was illegally removed from office last month after two other council members made up false charges against him.
St. Goddard was among those who voted to return himself to the council and remove Roger RunningCrane, who was appointed to replace him, Old Chief said.
OldChief said one of the six tribal council members who voted to remove St. Goddard from office on June 18 called in his vote from the hospital.
"He had to be physically there to constitute a quorum," OldChief argued. "In my eyes and in the eyes of the constitution and the plan of operation, it was deemed that Mr. St. Goddard was still a council member."
The motion was based on allegations that St. Goddard authorized the illegal killing of a bull moose, used tribal equipment for personal purposes, solicited donations to a non-sanctioned tribal event and threatened tribal employees.
St. Goddard has denied wrongdoing and said he was ousted because of his complaints about alleged corruption and misspending of tribal funds.
After voting to restore St. Goddard to his post, council members voted to remove Willie Sharp Jr. as council chairman and appoint OldChief to replace him.
Sharp said the votes that restored St. Goddard to the council and stripped him of his chairmanship were the ones that violated the tribe's constitution.
"Everything they did was not in the scope of the constitution, although they like to interpret it that way," Sharp said. "For Mr. St. Goddard to vote on his own reinstatement defies any sense of legality."
OldChief, St. Goddard and three other council members met in the tribal council conference room Tuesday while Sharp and the other four met at a tribal casino in an effort to avoid conflict.
Nedra Darling, public affairs specialist with the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, said the BIA recognizes the Sharp administration.
"Based on the Blackfeet Constitution, we recognize the Sharp administration as the duly elected government of the Blackfeet people," Darling said. "Beyond that, I can only say that the Blackfeet people are strong and we are confident they will successfully work through this transition."
The two factions of the tribal business council are scheduled to meet behind closed doors Friday afternoon in an attempt to solve their differences, Sharp said.