Law | Politics

Leadership dispute within Paskenta Band appears to escalate





A leadership dispute within the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians in California is getting messier.

Chairman Andy Freeman said four council members relinquished their positions at a general council meeting last month. They have disputed his claims and the Bureau of Indian Affairs considers them to be legitimate leaders, according to an April 15 letter.

Now those four council members claim Freeman has been removed from office, allegedly for missing too many meetings. They are planning to call a special election to fill the chairman's post.

“We worked hard to reach out to Andrew Freeman to ensure that he maintained his position as chairman for the tribal council. We had mentioned in the past that we were meeting regularly and asked him to participate. However, at each meeting there was a quorum, he didn’t show, and we were forced to vacate his position per the Paskenta Tribal Constitution in order to maintain a legal and valid government,” Vice Chairman David Swearinger said in a press release. “This is unfortunate, but legal processes were followed and we will coordinate with the other tribal members to find appropriate candidates to fill the chairperson post.”

Freeman has leveled similar charges against the rival council members, accusing them of missing meetings. According to his faction, four new people have been appointed to their positions.

The dispute has affected the tribe's casino, which remains in operation, along with the tribal court system and the police department. Security guards aligned with Freeman are patrolling the tribal casino while the Swearinger group hired a former county sheriff as the tribe's new chief of police.

The entire dispute started 76 people were suspended at the April 2 general council meeting. Freeman has accused some members of the Pata family of stealing more than $1.5 million from the tribe although charges don't appear to have been filed in any court.

The 76 people are now facing permanent disenrollment from the tribe.

Get the Story:
Paskenta tribal battle continues, escalates (The Corning Observer 5/14)
Former Sheriff Clay Parker hired as tribal police chief (The Red Bluff Daily News 5/14)

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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)