The chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe, who was voted out of office earlier this month, is awaiting an injunction hearing to see if her ouster stands.
Marilyn Winsea is the first woman to serve in that capacity since the 1960s. But if the tribal Business Committee’s decision stands, Winsea will lose her position as chairman and will no longer hold the title.
An injunction hearing is pending. The hearing was set for May 21 at the tribal headquarters in McLoud but was rescheduled to late July because of “the court making a technical mistake in notifying defendants to the case,” Winsea said
“We have a strong history of improper removal,” she said. “I’m prepared to fight...Being a female, I’m being strong-armed. It seems like one woman is up against many men.”
However, a tribal member speaking on behalf of the Business Committee said the committee believes it is following all proper procedures and will discuss the matter further in the near future.
Still, Winsea, who has hired an attorney from Tecumseh to represent her, said she believes in addition to her gender being an issue, the grievances came as a result of her attempts to have all tribal government employees drug tested; to have a federal review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs of the tribe’s federally-funded programs; and to “curb abusive and excessive spending of tribal monies, including the monitoring of the tribe’s casino operations closely.”
She further said she believes the committee’s action is a “total disrespect to all tribal members,” as it was their votes that led to her election.
Winsea was elected to the position by tribal members after running about one year ago. She took office 30 days after the June 14 election, but learned a grievance had been filed against her in September, followed by another in February.
“I won the election by a significant amount, not just one or two votes,” she said. “Initially, after the election, I believe the support was there but Sept. 27, a grievance was filed and we omitted the process. It went straight to tribal court.”
The cause of the grievances remain a mystery to Winsea, she said.
“I asked for a report of cause and still haven’t received any kind of official report,” she said. “I received an issue of a meeting but I would think I’d receive a rationale for the cause. I still wonder what I did wrong.”
Winsea said by tribal constitution and policy, tribal members may file grievances against elected officials, which are then reviewed by a Grievance Committee. The Grievance Committee investigates the claim and turns its findings over to the four-member Business Committee, which then gives an answer, she said.
Page 2 of 2 - Winsea said in her situation, she doesn’t believe policy and procedure were followed and she does believe the fact that she is a woman has been the underlying issue for the problems she has faced.
“No one should be deprived of their voice,” she said of those who elected her. “On behalf of the people, I hope the people win. I hope their vote will be considered. It was the people’s choice to elect me.”
Winsea said she based her campaign on the same issues that she believes led to her dismissal: addressing tribal drug abuse and “mismanaged finances.”
“Drugs are an issue. I campaigned with that,” she said. “And I believe the No. 1 problem for our tribe is financial mismanagement. I believe background checks are essential, as well as drug tests. We have to ask of our government leaders, ‘Are they competent, are they drug free?’ All jobs require drug testing...Who’s going to invest in someone with a drug problem. And when the tribe asks for money from its people, they should spend it like they say.”
Winsea said that as much as she is a Kickapoo citizen, she also is an American citizen and because of that, she expects proper proceedings to take place regarding the grievances filed against her.
“As an American, I’m due due process,” she said. “They had two hearings to discuss my removal but each of the grievances can be answered. I have Kickapoo constitutional rights.”
Winsea said she believes the committee members are acting “with impunity, with no regards to tribal law, its constitution or customs.”
“Their action is total disrespect to all tribal members,” she said.
Attempts to reach Business Committee members Thursday evening were unsuccessful. However, Tribal Court Clerk Rochelle Murdock did return a call made to her home Thursday evening but said she did not have enough information about the situation or the authority to comment about it.
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