Ousted tribal chairman Billie not eligible for re-election 4-25-07

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) - Former Seminole Tribe of Florida leader James E. Billie, who was ousted in 2003 amid money mismanagement accusations, will not be allowed to run for re-election, the tribe said.

The Tribal Council and the election board on Monday found Billie was not qualified to run in the May 14 election because he does not live on tribal land.

Many tribal members consider this election the most important in Seminole history, in part because of the tribe's wealth. The Seminoles operate seven Florida casinos and have vast holdings in land, cattle and citrus. In March, the tribe completed its nearly $1 billion purchase of the Hard Rock cafes, hotels, casinos and music memorabilia.

Billie, 63, lost his $312,000-a-year job amid accusations that he mismanaged a $60 million investment account. No criminal charges were ever filed, and the tribe later agreed to pay Billie $600,000 to settle a lawsuit he filed.

Billie, who has a home in Moore Haven, said he is a resident on the tribe's Brighton reservation.

“I have an RV at the camp, and my children go to school there,” he said. It was not immediately clear if he would appeal the decision.

The Seminoles have reservations in Big Cypress in the Everglades, Hollywood, Tampa, Immokalee, Fort Pierce and Brighton in Glades County north of Moore Haven.

“The whole process was unfair,” said Andrew Bowers, council representative from the Brighton reservation.

Billie's disqualification leaves two candidates for the tribal chairman post: incumbent Mitchell Cypress and Moses B. Osceola, currently president of the tribe's board of directors.