WINNEBAGO, Neb. | A crowded contest for seats on the Winnebago Tribal Council election has taken shape this fall.
The election in Winnebago is unusual because tribal members will be asked to fill eight council seats, instead of the usual three. Nineteen candidates have filed for the eight seats.
Under a staggered term system, the nine-member council would normally have three open seats at the end of each year, said Danelle Smith, the Winnebago Tribe’s attorney. The additional vacancies resulted from the removal and resignation of eight members earlier this year after a scathing audit showed questionable tribal spending practices.
“This year is unique,” Smith said.
In February, an investigative committee empowered by the Tribal Council found that council members had given themselves large raises, bonuses and tens of thousands of dollars to other tribal members, many of whom were likely voters, through loans and discretionary grants.
The investigation resulted in the resignation of former council chair John Blackhawk and members Morgan Earth, Darwin Snyder and Travis Mallory. Council members Louis Houghton Jr., Charles Aldrich and Thomas Snowball were removed.
Smith said the eight vacated seats were filled by special election or appointment by Vincent Bass, Brian Chamberlain, Victoria Kitcheyan, James Snow, Maunka Morgan, Kenneth Mallory, Gloria Jean Eagle and James Louis Larose.
All but Morgan are running for re-election this fall. Additional candidates include: Janet Bird; Marian Holstein; Amy Painter; Eli Painter; Isaac Smith; Kellie Snow; Thomas "Bomber" Snow; Pete Snowball Sr.; Curtis St. Cyr; Frank White; Crystal "Kokitty" White; and Tyren Wolfe.
Tribal Council Chair Darla LaPointe, the only holdover member not up for re-election this fall, has two years left on her term.
The primary election will be Sept. 1 at the Blackhawk Community Center gym. Polls will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. A total of 19 candidates are on the ballot, of which the top 16 finishers will advance to the Oct. 6 general election.
In the general election, the top three vote-getters will be elected to three-year terms previously held by Blackhawk, Payer and Houghton.
The two candidates with the next most votes will be elected to two-year terms previously held by Aldrich and Snowball. The candidates with the sixth, seventh and eighth most votes will win one-year terms previously held by Earth, Snyder and Mallory.
Smith said the terms were shortened so the Tribal Council can return to its cycle of having three seats up for election each year.
Lincoln Journal Star reporter Kevin Abourezk contributed to this story.