Sep 15, 2015 - Former US Attorney Brendan Johnson Retained by Embattled Tribal Chairman
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (SWO) Tribal Council facing backlash after “unlawful” suspending of Chairman; Former US Attorney for South Dakota (Brendan Johnson) is now Retained by Chairman Renville.
Tribal Chairman Bruce Renville, who recently won a huge majority in his bid for Chairman, took a tough stance on drugs by mandating that all Tribal employees take a drug screening. This action, which opponents describe as possibly violating the Indian Civil Rights Act, is seen by Renville supporters as a backward, ill-advised, knee-jerk reaction to a Chairman trying to send the right message against drugs. The Council reportedly met Sept. 4 while Chairman Renville was in the hospital, voting to remove him as Chairman and scheduled hearing on the 18th of September to potentially remove Chairman Renville. Council made a motion to suspend the chairman, something that has no precedent or language in the SWO constitution, but is also an argument which is used by the council to invalidate the chairman’s order of the screening. This intra-tribal tussle is common among post-colonial Tribal governments where the law is what most people on council agree is the law while the people remain uninformed because Tribal citizens are not always online.
Sources close to the situation state that the Council moved to nullify the drug tests results and actually re-instated people who tested positive for drugs, including users of THC. This reportedly worries Chairman Renville as a possible violation of several federal regulations as well as an abuse of power in that the motion could result in proof of aiding and abetting criminal behavior as well as obstruction of justice by tampering with evidence. Former US Attorney for the State of South Dakota Brendan Johnson has now been retained by Chairman Renville to protect the interests of this process.
Chairman Renville, while out on medical leave, was suspended pending investigation during a closed door executive meeting which Renville supporters claim was done without the authority to call such a meeting. The basis for this motion to suspend the Chairman, according to supporters, is solely based on certain tribal member’s dismay and recourse over the drug-test results and consequence of the Chairman’s action while opponents of Renville claim it’s based on violations of civil rights, that it was not in accord with policy and that employees with prescriptions had been targeted in the test. A decision to drug-test employees has been lacking for several years according to sources and it is unclear if the entire SWO Council took the drug test. To be clear all casino employees are drug-tested; it’s only the Tribe that has not been tested in some time.
This decision to drug-test is highlighted by the assertion that many babies (reportedly 80% of babies) on SWO homelands are being born addicted to drugs including meth, benzos, opiates & heroine. Additionally, the SWO government passed a resolution that includes Banishment if caught selling, trafficking and or manufacturing of METH. With numbers unreleased it has come to the public’s attention that many employees of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate failed to comply with the tribes Zero Tolerance Policy regarding all and every drug; and this has resulted in the Chairman facing removal on September 18, 2015 in front of the SWO Council. It is unclear at this time whether that decision is appealable in any court.