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Leaders of Paskenta Band raise questions about chair's actions





Leaders of the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians in California are trying to clear up an internal dispute before it gets messier.

On April 21, the tribe sent out a press release that claimed some council members willingly stepped down at a general council meeting on April 12. Some tribal members were also disenrolled, according to the release.

No explanation was given at the time. But on April 30, the tribe sent out another press release in which Chairman Andy Freeman said members of the Henthorne/Pata family were suspended because they are being accused of stealing more than $1 million.

No mention was made of the council members who supposedly stepped down. Now, those leaders are speaking out and they say Freeman has been the source of misinformation that's been reported in the California media and on Indianz.Com.

"We are looking to our chairman to come back to the fold and put this issue to rest," Vice Chairman David Swearinger said in a press release yesterday. "Once resolved, our day-to-day operations will be back on track.”

Contrary to Freeman's assertions, Swearinger and three other tribal council members -- including Treasurer Leslie Lohse, a familiar face in Indian Country due to her national leadership positions -- insist they remain on board. An April 15 letter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs confirmed that the last legitimate council includes five people: Freeman, Swearinger, Lohse and two others.

"No one of these people is the Tribal Council," a newsletter signed by Swearinger, Lohse and the remaining two council members states. "All five people, and only those five, are the Tribal Council."

The newsletter further states that Freeman acted on his own to remove the Henthorne/Pata family. "The disenrollment action was not approved by the Tribal Council and is not a legal action of the tribe," it reads.

The newsletter called on the Paskenta membership to reach out to Freeman and encourage him to work with the four council members before the dispute affects the tribe's gaming operation and its relationship with local governments and local businesses.

“We treat these sorts of concerns with great urgency, but there are democratic procedures in place to address concerns or grievances," Swearinger said. "No one can operate outside the law."

Related Stories:
Paskenta Band accuses suspended family of misappropriation (5/1)
Paskenta Band suspends family during contentious meeting (4/23)
Paskenta Band says leadership issues won't affect casino (4/22)