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Tribal courts toss Senate candidate's lawsuit

by Carmen Forman - Gannett Oklahoma

Judicial bodies for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation have tossed a wrongful termination lawsuit a state Senate candidate filed against the tribe's chairman.

Shane Jett, who was terminated on Aug 10 as CEO of the Nation's Community Development Corporation, said he plans to pursue the lawsuit in federal court.

Jett's petition for emergency injunctive relief, in which he requested to be reinstated in his job and receive back pay, was denied by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's District Court — a decision affirmed by the Nation's Supreme Court.

A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Jett accused Chairman John "Rocky" Barrett of terminating his employment for political reasons. Jett alleged he was fired from his job on Aug. 10 for opposing Shawnee's proposed mask mandate at a local public meeting.

Barrett has dismissed allegations that Jett's termination was politically motivated, but has not said why Jett was fired.

“Our judicial system exists to serve our members, employees and tribal government," Barrett said in a statement. "The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of Jett’s lawsuit. Much like in the United States’ federal system, our Supreme Court has the final word on these matters, and we urge everyone to respect the Court’s decisions.”

In a statement, Jett said he assumed the tribal courts were unlikely to rule against the Nation's chairman.

"Barring justice in tribal courts, this was always headed to federal court, Jett said. "That's where I will get a fair hearing. The Chief may be above the law in his own court, but he is not above federal law."

Jett, a former state legislator, is challenging Sen. Ron Sharp for the GOP nomination in Senate District 17. The two candidates will face off in Tuesday's runoff primary.