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By NICK BOWMAN
Daily News Staff Writer
The petition to recall six of the seven Council members of Ketchikan Indian Community is invalid, KIC President Irene Dundas announced on Tuesday.
After consulting the solicitor’s office of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, KIC determined that all seven Council members will remain in office because the petition didn’t reach the 287 signatures calling for a special meeting to remove Council members or the 197 signatures needed to recall a Council member, according to a prepared announcement.
"Regularly scheduled elections are the place for tribal citizens to exercise their power to vote for the candidates of their choice," Dundas said in a statement. "While our tribe’s governing laws allow for the recall of elected Council members, there was confusion about which law this recall was filed under."
In determining whether the recall petition was valid, KIC Tribal Operations and the Tribal Administrator, Arlene Dilts Jackson, reached three conclusions.
The total valid signatures didn’t meet the threshold of 287 signers — 5 percent of KIC’s 5,757-person membership — calling for a special meeting to remove a Council member.
The total valid signatures also didn’t reach the 197-name threshold — 50 percent of the voters in the most recent annual KIC election — to recall a Council member.
Finally, the petition pages lacked signatures and verification of those circulating the petition that he or she was a member of KIC and that nothing of value has been offered to those who sign the petition.
Martha Johnson, co-chair of the recall committee, said on Tuesday recall organizers had collected 243 signatures, but six were ruled invalid because they were not members of KIC.
However, Dundas said in a phone interview on Tuesday that the petition didn’t meet the lesser threshold of 197 signatures because approximately 50 of the signers had been invalidated for not being registered to vote in KIC elections or not being tribal members.
She said the petition’s invalidation didn’t disprove the charges of misconduct made by the committee — only that the petition hadn’t reached the necessary number of signatures.
"It didn’t have to get that far," she said. "If all those signatures would have been valid, it would have went to the next level," determining whether the allegations of misuse of power were legitimate.
Dundas denied any wrongdoing on her part or the Council’s.
Johnson said on Tuesday that the process by which recall petitions are considered was suspect.
"There’s something wrong with this picture when the people being recalled can decide on the petition," she said.
She also took issue with KIC’s claim that the petitioners didn’t have enough signatures to call a special meeting, saying that wasn’t a goal of the committee.
"We weren’t calling for a special meeting," she said. "This was a petition, and it was a valid petition, and they had to decide whether the charges are true or not."
Johnson said calling for a special meeting was the committee’s next step after the recall petition was invalidated.
Dundas’ statement said the recent changes were for the good of KIC.
"The Ketchikan Indian Community has undergone significant change in office staff and among its Council leadership," Dundas said. "We ask for patience and call upon our tribal members to understand that the transitions that our community is undergoing are intended to strengthen the Ketchikan Indian Community for the long run."
The announcement also revealed that the bureau found the January vote to amend the KIC constitution "was not legally effective, which means that the amendments to the community’s constitution concerning the removal of Council members adopted by the community in 1979 ... remain in effect."
Dundas said the bureau found several problems with KIC’s constitutional amendment process and the ballots presented to voters in January — chief among them the clarity of proposed amendments.
Using tribal dual enrollment as an example, she said that if the Council voted to allow dual tribal enrollment with an amendment to the KIC constitution, but the amendment didn’t spell out how it would allow dual enrollment, it would compromise the amendment process.
The KIC constitution and a list of amendments should have been provided in the ballot itself, she said, but were not.
She attributed the mistakes in the amendment process, which she said had been going on for two years, to the turnover at KIC and in the bureau.
"Over the last year, I’ve tried to communicate with (the bureau) and it has been difficult just to get a person to answer the phone," she said. "Communication with the (bureau) has not always been easy."
She said KIC likely would work to amend the 1979 constitution again, but she couldn’t say when work would begin.
"We pushed those propositions," she said. "We were never opposed to amendments or propositions for the 1979 constitution to happen."
She said the Council will need to budget for consultants’ and legal fees and schedule hearings on amendments.
"All of those things are going to cost KIC money," she said. "We’re going to have to rebudget."
Johnson and Richard Jackson, who couldn’t be reached on Tuesday, co-chaired the recall committee and were working to remove Dundas and six of KIC’s seven Council members: Gloria Burns, Verna Hudson, Donna Frank, Robert Sanderson, Andre LeCornu and Norman Arriola. Council Member Delores Churchill was not targeted by the recall.
The two told the Daily News on July 9 that they were initiating the recall petition because of action taken at the Council’s May 31 meeting. The pair alleged Dundas accepted Interim Administrator John Brown’s resignation and fired Human Resources Director Carleen Howard while acting as administrator.