ROOSEVELT — For the second time in two years, members of the Ute Tribe have voted out all three incumbents in an election to the tribe's powerful governing six-member Business Committee.
Many election watchers say they expect those who back the incumbents to seek to void the results of Tuesday's general election.
As the balloting stands after Tuesday night's count, Business Committee Chairwoman Maxine Natchees lost her bid for re-election as the representative of the Uintah band to challenger Curtis Cesspooch, in a 120-88 vote. Cesspooch is a former Business Committee member who campaigned on a platform to bring honesty and integrity back into tribal government.
"The people have exercised their right, and they shouldn't be denied their ballot," he said about the possibility of a contested election. "The people have spoken, and they do want a change. And that was shown in the amount of votes that were cast."
The Uintah band has 398 registered voters, and 208 votes were cast, he said.
The other two newly elected Business Committee members, Phillip Chimburas and Steven B. Cesspooch, are both tribal employees who are new to politics. Chimburas, a Whiteriver band representative, captured 119 votes, while incumbent Smiley Arrowchis had 97 votes.
In the closest race, Uncompahgre band members elected Steven B. Cesspooch with 166 votes. Incumbent Richard Jenks Jr. received 154 votes.
While the tribe is flourishing financially, tribal members have been split over the support that some of their elected leaders have given to controversial financial adviser John Jurrius. He is the author a "financial plan" that he sold to the tribe. The plan gives tribal members monthly payments, with senior citizens getting the largest dividend.
Jurrius has also been praised for his dealings on behalf of the tribe with oil and gas companies for increasing fees for leases and right-of-ways, along with payments to the tribe for other related aspects of developing tribal resources. However, his 10 percent take of the tribe's profits has been a sore point for many tribal members.
The Jurrius Ogle Group recently obtained a four-year extension of its contract with the tribe in a quickly called referendum vote in January.
Curtis Cesspooch said that all three newly elected Business Committee members support Jurrius' financial plan, but with the change in leadership, the entire six-member council will seek an accounting of the way Jurrius is handling tribal finances.
"We are going to be calling for an audit," Cesspooch said.