Results of this month’s Petersburg Indian Association election will stand, despite a challenge from one of the candidates.
The Jan. 9 vote kept incumbent Chairman Barry Morrison and board member Brenda Norheim in office. Fillmore Evenson and Tracy Welch were also elected to the board.
A fifth candidate, former tribal administrator and board member William Ware, came in last.
Ware challenged the election results, saying the tribe didn’t follow its own rules.
“My position is that as a tribal government, a federally-recognized tribal government, we’re required to operate just like any other government is required to do so. And when we have a process that we’re not following, then it calls into question whatever we’re doing,” Ware said.
Association Chairman Morrison says he has not been authorized by the board to speak on the issue.
But he sent a press release saying the board responded by creating a challenge committee.
The release says the committee’s finding was, “that there was no fault or fraud found with the election or the results.” The committee did recommend a re-vote.
But the PIA board decided not to do that. The release says that’s because Ware formally withdrew his candidacy to focus his concerns on the process. So a re-vote would have three candidates running for three board seats, with results largely the same.
Ware is unhappy with that decision, but says he will take no further steps against the board.
“We’re a small tribe. I really don’t want to cause any greater division within the tribe. I don’t want to cause any feelings of animosity between the council, myself or anybody else,” he said.
The newly elected board members will be sworn in at the next Petersburg Indian Association meeting, which is Feb. 6.
The PIA press release, in full:
The Petersburg Indian Association (PIA) held a regular board election on January 9, 2017. Up for election was a 1-year term for Board Chair (President) and three 2-year terms for Board Member. There was one candidate for President and four candidates for Board Member.
On January 10, 2017, PIA held their regular January board meeting. At that meeting, Chairman Barry Morrison notified the board that he had received a letter from one of the candidates challenging the election. The decision was made to appoint a Challenge Committee to examine the election process and make recommendations to the board for resolution of the concerns raised.
On January 11, 2017, the Challenge Committee was appointed. It was comprised of one election official, two election committee workers, and two PIA tribal members.
On January 15, 2017, the candidate who submitted the challenge letter withdrew as a candidate and clarified that the intent of the challenge was not to challenge the results but to bring attention to concerns about the process.
On January 17, 2017, a special meeting of the PIA board was held at the Hallingstad-Peratrovich Building to canvass the election results and discuss election procedures.
After determination that there were no questioned, special needs, or pending absentee ballots to be counted, the results of the election were certified as follows: Board Chair (President) – Barry Morrison, running unopposed, received 70 votes; Board Member – Brenda Norheim received 58 votes, Fillmore Evenson received 57 votes, Tracy Welch received 50 votes, and William Ware (name withdrawn as candidate) received 22 votes.
There was a great deal of discussion between the PIA board and members of the tribe who were in attendance regarding the concerns raised in the candidate’s challenge letter, election procedures, and whether a re-vote was warranted. The Challenge Committee’s finding was that there was no fault or fraud found with the election or the results, but it recommended (prior to the candidate’s withdrawal) that a re-vote be conducted.
The board determined that the question of a re-vote was moot because a re-vote ballot could not include any new names, there were only three candidates remaining for the three open board member seats, and all three candidates had prevailed in the regular election.
The newly elected members of the PIA board will be sworn-in at the regular board meeting on February 6, 2017.