Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 20, 2013

Tribal members to get their jobs back

PESHAWBESTOWN — The area Indian tribe will reinstate six Natural Resources Department employees who were fired for shooting a rifle off their office building’s back deck in March, said their attorney.

"It was clear that the tribal manager didn't know all the facts prior to the termination," said Traverse City attorney Craig Elhart, who represented the fired employees. "I made a proposal to the tribe that they be reinstated and have two weeks of unpaid leave. As I understand it, it was accepted by the tribal council Wednesday. We are now finalizing issues of compensation."

Tribal officials weren't immediately available for comment.

A coworker filed a complaint against the employees after he saw them shooting a .22 rifle at targets set on a vacant beach on West Grand Traverse Bay on a cold, snowy day. The tribal members initially were suspended and then fired on April 30 without pay.

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians held a lengthy appeals hearing on Tuesday at the Medicine Lodge. The hearing included Elhart, the tribal manager, two tribal attorneys, the fired employees, and Ellen Ance, the human resources director at the time the employees were suspended. Presiding over the hearing was James McCormack, a former 13th Circuit Court judge.

Fired employee Desmond Berry said it's good news, but he hasn't heard back from the human resources department or any tribal official.

"Only our hired gun, Mr. Elhart," he said.

Bill Bailey, the tribe’s chief game warden, said it's too early to make much comment.

“I’m glad of the decision they arrived at. At this point in time, we haven’t got anything from HR. I’m sure it’s coming.”

See additional details in Friday's Record-Eagle.

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