A group of Big Pine Tribal members is seeking to have Tribal Chairman Dave Moose removed from office amid allegations of nepotism, inappropriate use of tribal funds and disregard for tribal process.
Two separate petitions have been circulated on the Big Pine Reservation, one receiving more than 120 signatures, calling for the removal of Moose from the position of tribal chair.
One of the petitions has already been rejected by the Big Pine Tribal Council on the grounds it lacked enough signatures from eligible tribal voters. The other petition is an attempt to pick up where the first petition left off.
Tribal member Paul Stone, who circulated the first petition and claims to have gathered more than the 51 percent of eligible tribal voters, makes numerous abuse-of-power allegations against Moose.
In his petition, Stone states Moose “openly and illegally opens sealed bids and calls contractors to adjust their prices to get the job.”
Stone also alleges that Moose “uses bullying and intimidation to get whatever he wants, and does things for the best interest of himself and/or close family members and not the Big Pine Tribe as a whole” and that he “abolished the (Tribal Employment Rights Office) Committee when there were complaints filed against him for illegal hiring and firing of tribal employees, just because he was afraid to deal with the complaints.”
Stone also said that Moose’s position as the Bishop Tribe’s Economic Development Corporation manager creates a conflict of interest and questions about whether Moose has Big Pine tribal members’ best interest in mind.
Moose said that he has not been involved with proceedings regarding the petition, because it would create a conflict of interest.
“It is very unfortunate that some individual/s have made the choice to notify The Inyo Register in an effort to circumvent a procedure for removal of a tribal officer that is referenced in the tribe’s constitution and bylaws,” Moose said in a letter to The Inyo Register. “To use this forum is not in the best interest of the tribe and no further information on internal affairs of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe will be provided.”
Moose said that bringing the dispute to the local media has damaged the tribe’s reputation in the Owens Valley.
“This tactic compromises the integrity of the tribe and undermines tribal sovereignty,” he said. “In addition, it creates dissension and confusion amongst tribal members. This weakens the tribe’s effort in creating a government-to-government relationship and being self sufficient and says to the public that we as a tribe are not able to take care of our own affairs. This is definitely not the case and I take offence that this is being projected.”
In a letter of response to Stone’s petition signed by Tribal Vice Chairwoman Jacqueline Gutierrez, Secretary Harld Pierce, Jr., Treasurer Genevieve Jones and Member-at-Large Shannon Romero, tribal administrators said Stone’s petition was “null and void” for a number of reasons. The letter states that Stone did not receive enough signatures, that his list of complaints was not filed appropriately and because as many as nine signatures that were received on the petition were duplicate signatures, were not eligible voters or because the signatories had requested to have their signature removed from the petition because they felt Stone had misrepresented himself while gathering signatures.
The letter from the tribe states that Stone’s petition had four signatures from tribal members who were not eligible voters and five members who signed the petition twice. According to the Council, Stone’s petition also included the signature of a member who later recanted his support, saying via a letter to the tribe that he was misled and believed the petition was to bring an affordable apartment project to the area.
The tribe said Stone had 123 signatures that could be vitrified through the May 25, 2012 through May 25, 2013 approved eligible voters list and that 149 signatures are required.
Stone said that the approved eligible voters list the tribe used to check his names includes a number of duplicate entries and the names of several residents who have passed away, making it virtually impossible to collect the required 149 signatures.
With Stone’s petition rejected by the tribe effective March 6, another group of tribal members has circulated a second petition calling for Moose’s removal.
The second petition alleges that Stone’s attempt to have Moose removed from office was unlawfully rejected and reiterates many of the allegations against Moose that were put forth in the original petition.
As the petition circulates, Moose said tribal leaders are focusing on their jobs and ensuring that tribal services are available.
“It is sad that individuals choose to make tribal affairs public to try and ridicule or bring shame to someone; that is very unfortunate,” Moose said. “These actions do not represent nor reflect on the tribe and business and services continue.”
In closing, Moose said that the tribal chairman is duly elected by a majority of the membership of the tribe and takes an oath to represent the Big Pine Tribe to the best of his or her ability.
“I am very proud to have been given the opportunity to serve the tribe since 2002 and will continue to do so,” Moose said.