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Native Sun News: President of Oglala Sioux Tribe dodges bullets

Filed Under: Law | National | Politics
More on: native sun news, oglala sioux, south dakota
     

The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.


Irving Provost

Brewer dodges accuser’s bullets
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY — The attempt to unseat the current President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe has failed.

In addition to dodging the attempt to impeach him, OST President Bryan Brewer also dodged a lesser attempt to suspend him for thirty days. In the end, Brewer was reinstated to his office by the tribal council.

After a suspension that was brought on by the council in a vote of 5-10, pending this hearing, Brewer was able to face his accusers on three counts of the same complaint. The complaint was brought to council by the Finance Committee alleging that Brewer had acted outside of his authority as well as mishandling a donated check to the tribe.

A separate complaint that was filed by Caroline Bettelyoun was dismissed without prejudice due to the fact that Bettelyoun’s personnel complaint is currently in the court system. There was some confusion as to whether the complaint should or should not be allowed on council floor with some questioning if the council has the actual authority according to OST Personnel Policy manual.

The hearing, held at the Prairie Wind, was attended by more than fifty people, and saw the largest number of council members present at any recent meeting. Eighteen of the nineteen elected council members were present with only Porcupine District representative Scott Weston absent.

As the first complaint was brought forth by the OST Finance Committee it fell on the committee chairman, Irving Provost, Pine Ridge Village. Provost offered an opening statement that consisted of a reading of the three counts of the complaint, which included the mishandling of the donated check, signing an employment contract without council approval and allegedly granting the power of authority of the tribe to an outside party without council approval.

The first count tackled was the power of authority issue. Provost maintained that Brewer contracted with financial advisor Raycen Raines, a member of the OST, without the authority of the tribe. Brewer, who was accompanied by Troy Eid, former United States Attorney now in private law practice with Greenberg Traurig LLP in Denver. Eid was present as an expert witness on Tribal Economic Development (TED) bonds. Eid is the Chair of the Indian Law and Order Commission.

Brewer contends that it was merely a “fact finding” situation, and that the only form that was signed by him granting permission of any kind to Raines was form 2848 which is distributed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and allows an individual or entity to identify another individual as representative for them before the IRS. Brewer testified that he asked Raines to find out if the Oglala Sioux Tribe was qualified for a TED bond, and if so, what would be the possible amount available to the tribe.

It was found that Raines did bring a letter to the tribe informing them that if projects were developed would qualify within the TED bond scope, qualify for up to $275 million.

The questions coming from the council to Brewer were concerning his authority to contract with Raines for that purpose or any other. Eid, who explained in detail and answered questions about the TED bonds, explained to the council that what Brewer had asked Raines to do did not benefit Raines in any way, meaning that there was no actual “contract” established between Raines and Brewer.

The second count of the complaint dealt with a check in the amount of $5,000 made to the Oglala Sioux Tribe by a private organization. The check was dated December 19, 2013 and was presented to Brewer during the Lakota Nation Invitational in Rapid City. Melanie Two Eagle-Black Bull was called by Provost as a witness.

Two Eagle-Black Bull’s testimony was that she received a muddied check from a corrections officer who had been supervising inmates cleaning along Highway 18 east of Pine Ridge in the later part of April. Two Eagle Black Bull testified that she took the check to the President’s office and gave it to him. She stated that he asked her if he could cash the check.

The dispute between the two testimonies is that Brewer maintained that he was joking; and that he knew the check was made out to the tribe and that due to the amount of time between his receiving it and when it was issued, the likelihood of the check being void was great.

Two Eagle-Black Bull pointed out that she not only witnessed nobody else in the office with Brewer, but that he was, in her estimation, entirely serious about his question of cashing the check. Brewer countered that there were three other individuals in the office at the time, including his personal assistant at the time, Angela Sam, another person, and a consultant, Tina Merdanian. Merdanian was called to testify on behalf of Brewer, stating that she witnessed the entire exchange, including when Brewer joked about cashing the check.

Two Eagle-Black Bull responded to questions by Brewer about how the Finance Committee was made aware of the alleged mishandling of the check. She testified that she had brought it to the attention of the OST Treasurer Mason Big Crow and that he took the information to the Finance Committee. Big Crow was also called to testify by Provost. Big Crow testified that once he was told by Two Eagle-Black Bull about the check, he told her to take it to the President’s office. Big Crow also testified, contrary to Two Eagle-Black Bull’s testimony, that he was not the person who approached the Finance Committee about the check.

Answering questions by Brewer, Big Crow testified that after calling the bank to cancel the check and explain the situation, the bank told him that nobody had ever tried to cash the check and that when he last saw the check, it had not been endorsed.

Summing up his own testimony on the situation, Brewer maintained that he believed the check had been taken to the Treasurer’s office and had been deposited into the general fund, as per policy. Brewer told the council that it is not his routine to follow checks through the entire process of being handled and deposited.

As to the third count of the complaint, Provost brought the Economic and Business Development (E&BD) Committee secretary Alice Testerman to testify. Testerman testified that there were no minutes or verbatim that indicate that Brewer was authorized to renegotiate the employment contract with then General Manager of the Prairie Wind Casino Loris Welch.

Brewer testified that he was aware that the contract originally signed with Welch included an oversight that left out a family health care benefit in the amount of $7,000. Brewer signed a new revised contract with Welch after being told by Welch that the committee had renegotiated and approved the added benefit. Once the renegotiated contract went before full council it was defeated, reverting to the original contract.

Brewer maintains that he felt he had acted in good faith.

In the closing statement, Provost reiterated the stance of the Finance Committee, stating that Brewer had acted outside of the scope of his authority.

Brewer’s closing statement deviated from the complaints, and rather than addressing the complaints or any of the testimony head on, he spoke about the “broken system”.

After an emotional moment that Brewer took to compose himself, he spoke about the need for constitutional changes so that the tribal government would work for the people rather than the people having to work against the government.

Native Sun News received an email with Brewer’s proposed changes to the constitution that outlines the separate branches of the OST. Look for it in this issue.

Following more than an hour of deliberation in a closed executive session, the OST council reconvened. The conference room once again filled, this time to standing room only. A roll call vote was taken by Secretary Rhonda Two Eagle.

The motion to Impeach President Bryan Brewer was defeated by a 14-4 vote. The chairman of the Finance Committee, Provost, on whom the entire presentation of the plaintiff’s (the committee) fell upon, ended up voting against impeachment.

The council representatives who voted for impeachment were Lydia Bear Killer and James Cross, both Pass Creek District representatives; Stanley Little White Man and Bernie Shot with Arrow, both Medicine Root District representatives.

However, it was Provost who made the motion to suspend Brewer for thirty days, a vote that resulted in a tie. The tie was broken by Vice President Tom Poor Bear, who, after a rather emotional speech about the integrity of the council and the need to resume the work of the government without the distraction of numerous hearings, voted against the suspension.

The audience members who were in support of Brewer erupted in cheers and loud applause. The hearing was adjourned following a prayer by Sergeant at Arms Abraham Tobacco.

(Contact Karin Eagle at staffwriter@nsweekly.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News


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