Lawsuit says Apache tribal chairman should be removed

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (AP) 3-08

A lawsuit seeks to oust the Apache Tribe’s chairman because of three alcohol-related arrests.

Chairman Alonzo Chalepah filed a response to the lawsuit recently in U.S. District Court, asking a judge to dismiss Louis Maynahonah’s lawsuit. Chalepah said the court has no jurisdiction to interfere in the sovereign affairs of the Apache Tribe.

He said the lawsuit amounts to an attempted power grab by Maynahonah, the tribe’s former vice chairman.

Maynahonah’s lawsuit states that Chalepah pleaded guilty in June 2005 to a felony charge of actual physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated. It was his second conviction and he was arrested again on the same complaint in September, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says tribal members amended the tribe’s constitution in June by making convicted felons ineligible to hold office, and that despite this rule, the regional U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs refused to recognize Maynahonah as chairman of the tribe.

After repeated denials, Maynahonah and some supporters tried Sept. 5 to enter tribal headquarters in Anadarko, the lawsuit states.

Tribal members loyal to Chalepah refused Maynahonah entry and called the Caddo County sheriff’s office, which removed Maynahonah and threatened him with arrest, Maynahonah claims.

According to Chalepah’s response, his political opponent hasn’t exhausted his legal remedies through the tribe or the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Additionally, it states that Maynahonah vacated his seat as vice chairman last summer and hasn’t returned, so his ascension to chairman is moot.