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From Staff Reports

PINE RIDGE — The OST Council's recent decision to abruptly suspend popular President Bryan Brewer stems partly from the president's dealings with tribal businessman Raycen Raines, which enraged many council members, according to sources.

After suspending him, the council immediately approved a resolution saying Brewer had no authority to let Raines act on behalf of the tribe in federal negotiations.

Council members after the meeting declined to specify exactly what the president did that would warrant a suspension other than he overreached his authority as president.

Raines, a consultant in economic development and owner of Lakota Ways cultural center in Wall, claims he did nothing wrong and that Brewer’s suspension is simply retaliation by certain officials opposed to the president.

Raines told reporters he was trying to secure federal bonds for economic development and that his efforts didn’t rise to the level of official tribal activity under the constitution.

"We were only exploring to see if our tribe would be eligible to receive them,” Raines said. "All we did was try to build something our tribe should have done over 50 years ago.”

The political fight with the council, Raines said, stems from efforts he and the president made to obtain federal money through Tribal Economic Development bonds. Brewer asked him to help secure the bonds, administered by the IRS, he said.

Raines boasts his business is the largest private employer on the reservation, though his company is based in Wall, off the reservation. He said Brewer’s plan was to secure the bonds by forming a holding company that would create 500 jobs and startup five manufacturing businesses.

Usually such a large venture would require tribal council involvement and approval.

Raines claimed the president’s suspension was because of jealousy and retaliation initiated by certain economic development officials within the tribe who felt their turf was being trampled on.

"If I was to do anything with economic development, it would only make them look like they weren’t doing anything, which they weren’t doing anyway,” he said.

Over the past year, the OST Council has been trying to find ways to impeach the popular president with one charge after another, but has failed each time, even with a 15-count complaint in December.

But council members have been going after each other too, accusing each other of committing impeachable offenses, such as failing to follow certain procedures. But most of the council members attacked have been those who supported the president by voting not to impeach.

The council suspended five of its own council members last fall over what some political observers say were trumped up charges. But the suspension did not stick; council members were later reinstated.

Last week, the OST Council voted 10-5 to suspend Brewer on allegations he overreached his presidential authority in several areas that were unconstitutional, including mismanaging a donation of $5,000.

In a press release to newspapers, President Brewer said the allegations against him carried no weight and that his illegal suspension has "dragged us into the quicksand of domestic infighting."

"I did not put the people at risk in any of my decisions," Brewer wrote. "These allegations are false."

"The Finance Committee, one of the six Oglala Sioux Tribe’s standing committees, who have brought the charges, must answer for themselves why they have engaged in this smear campaign," Brewer said. "And why they are obstructing all of the potential benefits for our nation from being realized."

The charges against Brewer apparently claim he acted without the council's consent when he allegedly signed over power of attorney to approve economic development bonds and re-approved health benefits to the tribe's former casino manager.

A hearing for the president, set for July 17, and overseen by a tribal judge, will give the 19-member tribal council the final decision on whether he should be impeached or reinstated.

Vice President Thomas Poor Bear has assumed duties as acting president pending the hearing’s outcome. The suspension, he said, took him by surprise. He was called in to chair the meeting. He said he hadn’t yet seen the evidence against Brewer, but he believed the president should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

“Right now I’m carrying the responsibility for the president,” Poor Bear said. “But I don’t like to look at myself as the president.”

The RST Council in Rosebud similarly voted to suspend President Cyril Scott near the beginning of his first year in office. But Scott physically took back his office and his authority and sent the vice president back to his office, after the council came under heavy criticism from former presidents and elders.

President Scott was allowed to retake command without protest, even though the council never actually rescinded his suspension. The council action was simply allowed to die in chambers.

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