Council representative from the Oglala District avoids impeachment attempt made by the Oglala Sioux Tribe Attorney General. Photo by Karin Eagle
Dull Knife survives impeachment attempt
Malfeasance and corruption charges dismissed
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer
PINE RIDGE - Citing corrupt conduct, violation of oath of office and malfeasance, the Attorney General for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Tate Win Means, made a failed attempt to obtain the impeachment of Barbara Dull Knife, Oglala District Representative on the tribal council.
In a special meeting of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) to conduct the impeachment hearing on June 5 in the conference room at the Prairie Wind Casino, 13 council members met to hear the charges and the testimony against Dull Knife as well as in her defense.
Immediately after the meeting was called to order the council went into executive session to discuss the procedure that the hearing would follow. Means and Dull Knife were asked to remain in the session for the information to be given, as Means would be representing herself.
Dull Knife had requested the legal advisement of Steve Emery, an attorney from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, who remained in the session with Dull Knife.
Soon after the executive session was called, Emery emerged from the closed room and stated briefly that he would not be allowed to represent or advise Dull Knife, but due to confidentiality was unable to give the reasons given.
Once Council left executive session the hearing proceeded with opening statements beginning with Means. She stated that she was making the charges, filed May 2, not as the OST Attorney General but as a citizen with rights, based on Article VIII, Section 2 of the OST Constitution which deals with the removal of officers.
Mean’s charges came from her belief that Dull Knife acted out of procedure in seeking the removal of the Attorney General and that Dull Knife persisted with her course of action in seeking her termination even after she was informed that she was not following the prescribed procedures.
Means cited a committee meeting on April 8 where she witnessed Dull Knife making a motion to suspend Means based on complaints received from one of Dull Knife’s constituents. The constituent, Shirley Black Stone, had alleged that Means had acted outside of her scope of duties and against the best interest of the tribe.
Means stated that Dull Knife was told that a committee meeting was not the forum in which to bring the motion to request her suspension.
Dull Knife appeared frustrated at times during the meeting, stating repeatedly that she was not an attorney and did not quite understand all the charges brought against her. Her defense, which she stated many times during the hearing, was that she did “nothing wrong, and was just doing my job for my constituents.”
On April 9, according to the complaint brought by Means, Dull Knife once again sought to seek her suspension. At a meeting in Kyle that was meant to address an anti-bullying campaign, Means was told via telephone the Dull Knife spoke up again about suspending Means. Kyle representative Bernie Shot with Arrow asked Means pointedly who had informed her that this was done at the April 9 meeting.
Means responded that it was apparently in an executive session and that it was “a council member.” Shot with Arrow asked again who the council member was that told her she was being discussed in terms of her suspension.
“Garfield Steele,” responded Means. The actual matter according to Steele, who testified as a witness for Means, was that Dull Knife brought the matter up after the meeting was adjourned.
After several questions concerning the definition and meaning of malfeasance and corrupt conduct; attempts to provide character witnesses on behalf of Dull Knife, which were not allowed during the hearing; the hearing concluded with the council going into executive session.
Commenting to Native Sun News, Means verified that the OST has no formal procedures to outline exact ways to remove a political appointee, and the AG and tribal justices are political appointees.
When asked what would the process be Means stated that past AGs had been removed by council which set a precedence, but that nothing was in the tribal code. If complaints are made about the AG concerning court procedure they can follow the appeals process.
Complaints about the systemic procedures that the AG has to follow can be filed directly to the tribal council beginning with the filing of the complaint at the Secretary’s office. The same follows true for complaints about the AG personally. Means emphatically asserted that the procedure was always to file with the Secretary’s office in order to get the complaint formally heard on the Council floor.
Once the hearing reconvened following the deliberation of the tribal council, the verdict was announced that Dull Knife would not be impeached from office. The counts of malfeasance and corrupt conduct were dismissed, but the charge of violation of oath of office was accepted. Dull Knife will have to serve a suspension of two pay periods.
The vote to accept the hearing’s outcome was nine yes to five no. The nine yes votes were; Bear Killer, Cummings, Little White Man, LeBeau, Meeks, Provost, Shot with Arrow, Tapio and Cross. The five no votes were; Eagle Bull, Little, Rodriguez, Siers and Weston.
Immediately following the hearing, Dull Knife declined comment. Means immediately left the premises and could not be contacted for comment.
A contingency of supporters for Dull Knife, including Black Stone, the original complainant against Means, remained to vocalize their disappointment in the tribal council for even entertaining Mean’s complaint.
Pending further investigating, Native Sun News will follow up on the reports and news corresponding with these allegations, and any appeals being considered by Dull Knife.
(Contact Karin Eagle at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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