Judge upholds suspension of some Pine Ridge council members

Rapid City, South Dakota (AP) 11-07

An Oglala Sioux tribal judge has upheld the suspensions of some tribal council members who reportedly refused to take a drug test.

“My ruling was really simple,” Lisa Adams said Nov. 9 after a daylong hearing.

It was not clear how many council members were suspended. Adams listed six and possibly a seventh, but council members put the number at four or five. She said she thinks the tribal council can require drug tests of its members. “The goal is to promote a drug-free council. And if you test positive, you probably should step down,” Adams said.

Also in her ruling, Adams reversed the suspension of tribal treasurer Crystal Eagle Elk, saying the council had no authority to suspend her. Suspending Eagle Elk would have resulted in a “crisis” because the tribe then could not pay employees or provide vital assistance, the judge said.

She also voided parts of a council resolution that would have required publication of the hair-follicle drug test results in newspapers and would have required council members who failed the tests to resign or be impeached.

Adams said drug-test results should be private because they could expose council members to criminal prosecution.

Tribal council member Floyd Brings Plenty of Oglala, who introduced the original resolution last month, said it was a response to federal charges in New Mexico against council member Don Garnier, who has been suspended pending the outcome of the case against him.

Brings Plenty said the resolution shows the council’s commitment to a drug-free reservation. He also said John Steele, the tribal president, ignored the council’s original resolution.

William “Shorty” Brewer, tribal vice president, was the one who enforced the council mandate requiring all tribal council and executive committee members to submit to a hair follicle drug test on Wednesday.

Adams said she expects her ruling will be appealed to the tribe’s supreme court.