Local News

STA council fails to certify election, considers removing Paul

SITKA, ALASKA
The results of the tribe’s November 9th election were first scheduled for certification at the November 17th meeting of the Tribal Council, but an earlier recount led the item to be pulled from the agenda.

Certification was then set for Saturday, but the meeting failed to get a quorum. The members of the council were polled by phone, and the move to certify the results failed, according to STA attorney Jessica Perkins.

Tanya Bonorden was the top vote getter in the November 9th council election.

“We just assumed that it was not going to be certified that day,” Bonorden said, “and so the ceremony that was after the parade, which was in the newspaper, was I guess not going to happen. We were kind of disappointed. I was, anyway. I can only speak for myself.”

Council chairman Woody Widmark says plans for future certification of the election results have not been made, but that it will likely take place before the end of the month. The new council terms are set to begin on December 1st.

All of this comes just before a special meeting of the Council on Wednesday, to consider the possible removal of one of its members.

Widmark issued a memo to the council, dated the day before the election, asking for an investigation of council member George Paul. He accuses Paul of speaking on behalf of the tribe when not authorized to do so, both to the city Assembly and to Senator Lisa Murkowski. According to Widmark’s memo, the remarks involve the Tribe’s relationship with SEARHC.

The memo also says Paul has made negative remarks toward Tribe staff during council meetings when SEARHC was discussed and that he neglected his duty by not signing up for or participating in any committees during his term.

And Widmark also points to court action against Paul as possible grounds for investigation. Paul was convicted in late September of disorderly conduct in connection to a dispute he had with a relative. He received a suspended sentence and was placed on unsupervised probation for a year.

Paul said he wanted to speak to his attorney before commenting for this story. But in an open letter published in Monday’s Daily Sitka Sentinel, a group calling itself the George Paul Legal Defense Fund says Paul’s removal is politically motivated and designed to control the balance of power on the tribal council.

Widmark says his request for an investigation is not politically motivated, but declined to speak further on the matter. He said details will be made public during Wednesday’s hearing.
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