Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 23, 2008

Tribe members head to polls again

Improper censure leads to a second vote for chairman


PESHAWBESTOWN -- Members of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians will have another shot at selecting a tribal chairman today.

A tribal court in August ruled the band's election board improperly censured candidate Derek Bailey shortly before the initial vote in May. A new election was ordered, and polls will be open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Peshawbestown, East Jordan, Traverse City and Benzonia.

Bailey lost by 23 votes to two-term incumbent chairman Robert Kewaygoshkum in the regularly scheduled May 21 election. But Bailey challenged the results because the band's election board issued an e-mail censuring him for using a tribal computer to visit his campaign Web site.

The mass e-mail was sent less than 24 hours before the election to all tribal gambling and government employees. A tribal appeals court eventually ruled the action was "far outside the scope of the authority granted to the election board under the Constitution."

Bailey, who served as a tribal councilman before running for chairman, is pleased to see the new election.

The ruling "has allowed the tribal members and their families the opportunity to re-evaluate not only the candidates, but also the state of our Nation," he said.

Bailey said he's made an "extensive effort" to visit with tribal members in their homes since the initial election.

"(The new election has) definitely given me an opportunity to reach more of the voting body," he said.

Kewaygoshkum defeated Bailey 233 to 210 in the May election. Nearly 460 tribal members voted, representing about 53 percent of the band's registered voters.

Kewaygoshkum sent out a letter to voters encouraging them to cast a ballot in today's election, he said.

"I just hope that everybody comes out and votes," he said.

The new election won't impact the three tribal council seats decided in the May election. Incumbents David Arroyo and Sandra Witherspoon kept their seats, and newcomer Brian Napont was elected to the seat vacated by Bailey.