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LACK OF RESPECT AND THE DOWNFALL OF A TROUBLED RST PRESIDENT

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POLITICAL ANALYSIS

By Gregg Bear

ROSEBUD — Newly elected women council representatives appeared to play a significant role in opening the final flood gate leading to the ultimate downfall of RST President Cyril L. Scott, and his recent removal from office.

In the end, it was clearly a collaborative effort by elected officials grown tired of President Scott’s continuing effrontery in office.

Like she did in giving Scott a 60-day suspension in February, Rep. Lila Kills In Sight (Spring Creek) rose at the end of the April 14 ethics hearing and made a motion of political finality—a motion sacking the tribe’s controversial president and banning him from seeking public office again.

Kills In Sight’s deposing motion, to a momentarily hushed assembly, was seconded by Rep. Kathleen Wooden Knife (Soldier Creek) and questioned by Rep. Arnetta Brave (Butte Creek).

For the three women, elected only last year, this intrepid contribution was seen by many as helping bring closure to a political quandary that observers say was festering in the administration ever since the 2012 election, when Scott took office, beating former longtime President Rodney Bordeaux by a mere 39 votes.

For colleagues on the tribe’s governing body, Rep. Kills In Sight’s motion for removal was not exactly unwelcome. Sixteen council representatives raised their hands to make the final vote unanimous, 16-0-0, signifying a two-thirds majority, and legally snuffing out the political career of the 52-year-old ousted president—who’s still vowing to fight back, according to the Rapid City Journal, where he ran after learning he was fired.

Since the start of Scott’s three-year term, RST Council representatives and tribal employees had put up with Scott’s bullying tactics, his tendentious policies and actions, allegedly mismanaging tribal funds, illegal layoffs and hirings, incessant traveling, appearing intoxicated at national conferences, and ongoing reports of fist-fighting at local bars.

After establishing such a history over the course of two and a half years, some officials were admitting they had had enough.

The day of his ouster as president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, President Scott entered council chambers and loudly announced his presence in a blustering voice tribal members had come to recognize.

“It’s 10 o’clock, I’m here!”

The president, who had been warned he would be the subject of the scheduled ethics hearing, then declared it was not his responsibility to make sure enough council members were present to form a quorum.

The 20-member council requires a minimum of 11 members to fulfill quorum prerequisites, to conduct official business.

Vice President William Kindle, acting president during Scott’s suspension, said he believed enough had arrived. A quick roll call revealed 13 in chambers, which soon swelled to 15, then 16 members.

However, by the time the hearing got underway, President Scott had vanished from the proceedings, and the building. Council members had come to expect the president’s hasty, unplanned departures, which occurred when he lost control of a political situation at a meeting or saw that things weren’t going his way.

Though ethics hearing arbiter Theresa Maule was keen on getting the president to participate in the hearing, either by phone or through his attorney, it became evident that President Scott was refusing to recognize the formal inquiry as valid.

Behind the scenes, Scott reportedly was hoping his boycott of the hearing would somehow strengthen a potential court injunction against any negative outcome, and restore him to office. His term was set to expire in August.

Political observers say most people on the reservation would regret giving up a president’s $86-thousand a year salary. But money mismanagement was always an issue for the ousted president, not only for his administration, but his personal finances as well. And mismanagement of funds led the second round of ethics charges against him.

Scott’s public removal from office on April 14 immediately followed a second Ethics Commission investigation, presided over by Maule, in which council members heard complaints and testimony presented by Rep. Calvin Waln Jr., the lead plaintiff for the tribe.

Both Scott and Waln were elected for the first time to their respective offices in 2012. Scott, who had been hauling livestock for a living, quickly began a campaign of political domination as president. Observers contend his approach was brusque and unsophisticated, intimidating some council members and bullying tribal employees or firing them to place people he wanted, including a designing girlfriend. Early on, one of his political appointees bilked the tribe for more than $10,000 with an order for goods the tribe didn’t need. The money was never recovered and the president never pressed charges.

Rep. Waln, also known as “Hawkeye” and a former criminal investigator, was quick to begin publicly criticizing Scott’s unprincipled behavior, and questioning his deceptive activity.

The president’s office hit back, as it tried to politically undermine Waln’s allegations to silence him and other critics. And to some extent, Scott, exploiting the weight of his presidency, succeeded in temporarily endearing a few tribal members and swaying some retired politicians, and they sharply criticized Waln for speaking out.

But going back as far as Scott’s firing the council’s choice of police chief in 2013, with apparent plans to install his nephew, Rep. Waln went on to demonstrate on the council floor, in the months that followed, that neither would he be intimidated nor would he shut up about the president’s bullying behavior, his trampling of established rules, and his alleged failure to follow tribal laws and council directives.

Scott’s election as president followed several failed campaigns, and it was probably inevitable that controversy dog his presidency after barely wrestling the office from a formerly popular president, who had been waning under the accumulation of his own political baggage. Reception of the new president and his manner of governing was clear enough to cause him to delay his inauguration, normally a heralded event, by six months.

Taking office, President Scott over the next two years faced three recall attempts by petition, filed by constituents accusing him of failing his oath of office, circumventing laws, and mismanaging funds. All failed to gather the required number of signatures to recall the president.

In the end, Scott’s removal from office was based on very similar charges. After daylong testimony in February, the council found the president guilty of “neglect of duty, gross misconduct, and blatant refusal to obey an order by the Council,” according to RST Secretary Julie M. Peneaux.

Though he was given a 60-day suspension without pay, it marked the second time the president faced suspension. After his Sept. 12, 2013 suspension for 90 days, President Scott ignored the council and boldly re-commandeered his office the next day, based on a questionable, reversed legal opinion.

“Be advised,” Scott said in a prepared statement broadcast repeatedly over the tribe’s public access channel, “that as president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, I am retaining my authority as the elected leader of our nation. The action taken against me yesterday is unconstitutional and illegal. It was a blatant violation of my due process rights and an attempt to usurp my authority. Tribal ordinances were totally disregarded and the code of ethics were violated.”

Though the council’s 90-day suspension of the president at that time was never officially rescinded, the president’s failure to heed the authority of the council would later come back to haunt him.

Following his suspension in February, Scott filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the council and won a March 14 decision, which was further upheld two days later, giving Scott hope he could resolve his issues with the council through the tribal court system. He also filed a lawsuit against the RST Council and its members.

But following an April 3 hearing in tribal court, Judge Patricia Meyers, ten days later, reversed the restraining order and dismissed Scott’s lawsuit and other motions, citing “sovereign immunity.”

The ruling freed the council to go ahead with its second ethics hearing against Scott, which eventually resulted in his removal from office.

Although the ousted president is threatening a come back through the courts, council members say it isn’t likely that Judge Meyers’ ruling will be reversed. They argue that because the tribe enjoys sovereign immunity, it also has the power to remove officers for violating its laws.

Meanwhile, the search now begins for a new tribal president in this summer’s elections. The hope, say political observers, is that tribal officials have learned something from the past three years, that tribal presidents are not dictators or bullies, they must know and follow tribal laws, and that before you can get respect you must first be willing to give it.

—Gregg Bear, an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, has been the shrewd editor-in-chief of the Sicangu Sun Times Newspaper for the past 25 years, and has devoted himself to covering the tribe's political affairs for a rapidly growing tribal constituency. He lives in the town of Rosebud, headquarters of the Great Sicangu Nation.

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