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By Gregg Bear

ROSEBUD — RST Treasurer Byron Wright narrowly escaped getting convicted recently on ethics charges filed against him by a woman he feared belonged to the infamous terrorist group, Islamic State in Syria or ISIS.

The 20-member RST Council earlier this month approved a motion by Rep. Kathleen High Pipe to dismiss ethics charges against Wright in a roll-call vote, which resulted in: 6 Yes, 5 No, 1 Abstain, and 8 No shows.

“Treasurer Wright, like magic, sidestepped getting sanctioned by just a single vote,” said an SGU student who watches Rosebud politics.

At the hearing, Wright himself moved that the council quash all charges against him, claiming he and RST Ethics Committee failed to receive due process, but Wright’s eleventh-hour motion was roundly denied.

The treasurer is up for reelection this year, and since February Wright has been in an ongoing battle with the editor of a controversial website called Lakota Voice.

Ann-erika White Bird, an enrolled member from St. Francis and owner of the website, had been demanding financial documents from Treasurer Wright, such as council travel and other information, some of which she wanted to post on her Lakota Voice website.

Over the past couple of years since starting her online blog, White Bird has faced sharp condemnation from elected officials for alleged inaccuracies in her reporting. She also has been accused of trying to undermine the tribe’s public image to officials in Washington, D.C.

According to Aug. 14 testimony, Wright, in stonewalling release of information, initially became distrustful of White Bird when he learned she posed as a tribal official and used official-looking RST letterhead to obtain confidential information on former RST attorney general, Aisha Concha, who was affiliated with Taos Pueblo tribe in New Mexico.

At the August hearing, held in tribal building, White Bird managed to get 19 items of information admitted as circumstantial evidence against Treasurer Wright, but she called no witnesses to corroborate her allegations.

Wright called four witnesses to his defense, but only one showed up at the hearing. However, the testimony of his sole witness, Homer Whirlwind Soldier, did not appear to offer any significant aid.

Much of the evidence against Wright was introduced to RST Council through White Bird’s representative, Josh Dillabaugh. To observers, the allegations appeared to appeal primarily to emotion rather than reason, which some observers claim weakened White Bird’s prosecution of Wright.

Fundamentally, White Bird was charging Wright with failure to follow council instruction to hand over documents she wanted, and abusing tribal resources so he could investigate her alleged terrorist connections.

As testimony revealed, Treasurer Wright, while evading White Bird’s requests, became aware that she had posted videos to her website showing images of ISIS and Anonymous, the latter an international activist group.

The RST treasurer promptly ordered an investigation into White Bird’s connection to ISIS and Anonymous using the investigative prowess of Rosebud’s reluctant law enforcement personnel.

Criminal Investigator Marlon Enno reported to Wright and RST Council that White Bird had no known association or membership with ISIS or Anonymous, which the treasurer reportedly was initially unwilling to accept.

Treasurer Wright testified that he felt obligated to withhold requested documents from White Bird as long as she was under investigation for terrorist activities—an investigation he set in motion.

According to RST Constitution & Bylaws, and adopted BIA guidelines, enrolled members without question have the constitutional right to promptly receive the same information White Bird had been requesting from RST Finance Office, no matter how she planned to use the information after receiving them.

In dismissing charges against Treasurer Wright, the RST Council and its members failed to offer any future guidance to enrolled members on the treasurer’s willful refusal to release information to which all tribal members are entitled.

“Denial to one means denial to all,” as the SGU student political observer put it.

One disturbing fact revealed at the hearing was the utter contempt held by tribal law enforcement toward politicians for continually involving the police department in “piddly stuff” or petty politics, coming from elected officials harboring an agenda.

The roll-call vote to dismiss ethics charges against Byron Wright was as follows:

[YES] Reps. Richard Charging Hawk, Rose Stenstrom, Fern Boltz, Alvin Bettelyoun Sr., Richard Whipple, Kathleen High Pipe.

[NO] Reps. Calvin “Hawkeye” Waln, Mary Waln, Webster Two Hawk, Brian Dillon, Michael Boltz.

[ABSTAIN] Rep. Lila Kills In Sight.

[NO SHOWS] Reps. Todd Bear Shield, Arnetta Brave, Brian Hart Sr., L. Wayne Boyd, Shizue LaPointe, William Bear Shield, Wayne Fredericks, Kathleen Wooden Knife.

EDITOR'S NOTE: RST Treasurer Byron Wright lost Aug. 27 in his bid for reelection to Rep. L. Wayne Boyd in a landslide.

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