Three months after he was removed from office by the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council, former President Lawrence "Jace" Killsback has been re-elected to the tribe's top office by a margin by just two votes, according to preliminary results from Tuesday's special election.
However, Killsback's opponent, former tribal councilwoman Donna Fisher, plans to file a legal challenge against the results later this week, interim President Conrad Fisher's office stated Wednesday. Donna Fisher was not immediately available for comment Wednesday morning.
Killsback received 541 votes, narrowly edging out general-election opponent Fisher, who received 539 votes, according to a certificate of results provided by the interim president's office.
The two runoff candidates emerged from a field of eight in the Nov. 28 primary special election. It was called after the tribal council in October voted 9-1 to oust Killsback.
During the primary, Killsback received more than twice the number of votes won by Fisher.
Fisher has seven days to formally challenge the election results under the tribal council's election ordinance. To do so, she must allege that "serious or repeated violations" of the ordinance, tribal constitution or bylaws likely altered the vote.
The tribal court then rules on the challenge, and may require a recount of the ballots cast, overturn the results and declare a different winner of the election or void the election results and mandate that a new election be held.
Killsback did not return calls for comment Wednesday.
The inauguration is scheduled for Jan. 15. The abbreviated term will extend through the end of Killsback's original term, until a new regularly scheduled presidential election takes place in November 2020.
First elected in November 2016, Killsback came under fire last year from the tribe's legislative branch. Councilman Dana Eaglefeathers filed multiple allegations against the former president in September, which the council used as a basis to remove Killsback the next month.
Benji Headswift, the council's sergeant-at-arms, said Wednesday that despite still-unresolved issues between the two branches of government, he expressed cautious optimism that they would find a way to work together.
"We'll do what's best for the tribe. Basically, whatever situations come in the future, the Tribal Council will always look to help protect the tribe," Headswift said. "We had that removal, but we'll have to see what comes of it and hope for the best, I guess."
Wednesday evening, Conrad Fisher and the council released a joint statement expressing their dissatisfaction with the election results.
"With dismay, the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council and Acting President report that L. Jace Killsback was reelected" as president, the press release states, noting that his removal was subsequently recognized by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The statement restates some of the council's prior allegations, and accuses Killsback of additional misuse of tribal funds.
"Tribal leaders are considering further action," the press release concludes.
Killsback did not immediately return a follow-up call Wednesday evening seeking comment on the council's allegations.