By Sheila Stogsdill
MIAMI, Okla. — A two-month dispute over who will lead the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe for the next two years has been resolved by a declaration of nonjurisdiction in the Court of Indian Offenses, according to the tribe.
The re-election of Chief Paul Spicer was upheld last week. The two-term chief won with 523 votes to 373 votes in the June 2 tribal election.
The election was contested by former Chief Leroy Howard and his supporters because of an increase in the amount of absentee votes, according to a tribe spokesman.
Howard did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Several protests were filed regarding the validity of the election, but a previous election committee threw out the protests and certified the election, citing Spicer as chief. A newly seated election committee then upheld the protests and called for a new election.
The dispute led to Judge William Wantland issuing a temporary restraining order staying the certification of the election.
After hearings on July 20 and 27, Wantland ruled Friday that the court does not have jurisdiction over tribal election disputes and allowed the unanimous confirmation of the tribe’s election committee to stand.
The one-page ruling said the court found that the General Council of June 2 was adjourned upon a motion, a second to that motion and a voice vote, and that no appeal was taken from the chief’s declaration of adjournment.
“Therefore the resolution to give the court jurisdiction in election disputes is null and void, and the court does not have jurisdiction,” the court record states.
“Our tribal members have spoken with a strong and clear voice in support of the direction we have led the tribe over the last two years,” Spicer said in a prepared statement.
The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma has 4,400 members.
Oklahoma is the home of 39 tribal governments, according to Oklahoma Indian Legal Services Inc.
As sovereign, independent nations, the tribes have the authority to operate their own tribal courts, the legal organization states on its Web site.
Oklahoma tribes use two types of courts: tribal courts and courts of Indian offenses.