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Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2000

Council: Resign or be fired

Potawatomis give chairwoman until Oct. 7 to leave office

September 28, 2000

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The Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribal Council issued an ultimatum Wednesday to Tribal Chairwoman Mamie Rupnicki: Resign by Oct. 7 or be fired.

The demand came in the form of a resolution adopted on a 5-0 vote during a Wednesday morning meeting of the council.

Rupnicki, sources close to the council said, did not attend the meeting, and Vice Chairman Gary Mitchell did not vote.

The resolution says the council will meet to remove Rupnicki, who also serves as president of the Haskell Indian Nations University Board of Regents, on Oct. 7 if she does not resign by that date.

Steve Ortiz of Lawrence, council secretary, confirmed the text of the resolution in a telephone interview with the Journal-World.

The Tribal Council would formally strip Rupnicki of her title during a "General Council" meeting that would be open to the entire tribal membership. The meeting would be in the Potawatomi Bingo Hall.

The resolution, provided to the Journal-World, lists at least eight charges against Rupnicki. They allege Rupnicki:

Has shown a pattern of abuse of authority for which the council has reprimanded her in the past.

Made unauthorized use of her travel privileges.

Blocked the constitutional recall process through a "frivolous" lawsuit.

Engaged in questionable negotiations with Harrah's, which operates the tribe's casino.

Used her position to benefit her family.

Had a conflict of interest with her tribal position because of her appointment as president of the Haskell Board of Regents.

Misused a tribal credit card.

Showed disrespect for tribal members with insults and name-calling.

"She'll be answering those charges," Ortiz said when they were read to him over the phone.

Tribal members earlier collected 371 signatures on a petition that asked the General Council to consider her recall.

That meeting was scheduled earlier this month but was blocked when a tribal court granted an injunction at Rupnicki's request.

The injunction, however, stopped only the removal drive's spokesperson from calling the recall meeting.

After the injunction was issued, more than 300 tribal members, including Rupnicki, attended a Sept. 9 informational meeting on the situation.

There, a majority of tribal members voted "no-confidence" in her as tribal chairwoman.

Tribal Council members had told Rupnicki opponents they would remove her from office but not until after Sept. 30. That is when Rupnicki was scheduled to return from medical leave for an undisclosed malady.

Last week she attended the Tribal Council meeting and walked unaided to and from her car.

She has declined to comment on the recall effort since it began in August.

Wednesday night, attempts to contact Rupnicki were unsuccessful. Calls to her office at Tribal Government Center were answered by a machine.

Her home number is unlisted, and calls to her son's phone were interrupted by a phone company message saying the call could not be completed as dialed.

Rupnicki was elected to her second term as tribal chairwoman in 1998.

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