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Goshute elections are contested

SHARE Goshute elections are contested

The recent elections for leadership of the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians are being contested by the losing candidate for chairman who says the process was flawed.

There is "no other alternative but to contest this election," Blaine Bear said in a letter to Chester Mills, superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Uintah and Ouray Agency.

Lawrence Bear, a former chairman and uncle of embattled Chairman Leon Bear, was elected chairman 29-20 in an election conducted via mail last month by the BIA.

The BIA oversaw the election at the request of the band, whose members were notified of the results by mail Oct. 28. Some 49 of 88 eligible voters participated, according to the BIA.

The election also selected the two other members of the band's executive committee. Marlinda Moon was elected vice chairwoman and Lena Knight was elected secretary.

Blaine Bear told the Deseret Morning News Thursday he had several concerns about the process such as a lack of the ability for candidates to witness the vote counting, a lack of opportunity for campaigning, and allegations that some people only received ballots to vote in the primary, but not in the general election. He seeks a response from the BIA by Nov. 30 and said he'd like to see another election.

"There was no campaigning, no nothing," Blaine Bear said. "They don't know who they're going to vote in. That was one of the biggest concerns."

Mills said his office received the letter from Blaine Bear on Thursday and was reviewing it to determine what policy, if any, the band has in place for such a challenge.

"Basically he's challenging some of the (BIA) procedures," Mills said. "I have full confidence that there wasn't any violation of anything."

Outgoing Chairman Leon Bear, who is in the process of handing over leadership, has been acting chairman since his term expired in 2004. Since then, he has called off seven election attempts, citing a lack of a quorum of 44 voting members.

Leon Bear had fostered a controversial plan to temporarily store up to 40,000 tons of nuclear waste on the reservation about 50 miles from Salt Lake City. The deal with Private Fuel Storage appears in serious jeopardy after the Department of Interior denied the facility's lease in September.

PFS hasn't said publicly what it will do next, but in a statement last week, PFS spokeswoman Sue Martin said, "We will work with whoever the tribe elects."

Lawrence Bear said he supports PFS. Blaine Bear opposes it but said "it should be left up to the people."

Margene Bullcreek, who has long opposed PFS, said she would have rather seen Blaine Bear elected but thinks the band needs to move on.

Bullcreek said the next step is to hold a band meeting. She'd also like to see an audit to find out what projects Leon Bear has undertaken, and she'd like to see a more organized form of governance.

"I didn't like the way the procedure was done," Bullcreek said. "But we need to start somewhere ... If we hold another election, it's just going to keep setting us back."

Leon Bear, who had been a candidate for vice chair, said he doesn't plan to challenge the results.

"I have to give those people who got elected a chance to do something," he said.

E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com