Magistrate rejects request to reinstate mayor

Ketchikan, Alaska (AP) 3-08

A Metlakatla Tribal Court magistrate dismissed a request from the Indian community’s ousted mayor asking the court to reinstate him.

John Scudero Jr. was elected Metlakatla’s mayor in November and took office Jan. 7, but not quite a month later the 12-member Metlakatla Indian Community Council voted unanimously to remove him.

Since then, Scudero and his supporters have met several times to plan a course of action.

His van, stored on blocks on the street, also was set on fire during a Feb. 11 meeting, the same day Scudero reportedly filed his petition for reinstatement with the Metlakatla court.

Scudero has said he had planned on asking for a federal audit of the community’s finances before his removal.

Gerald Ben, assistant regional director for the BIA office in Portland, Ore., said MIC is audited annually and his office had not seen any discrepancies in the community’s finances.

“After careful consideration of plaintiff’s petition and the defendants’ motion to dismiss, the court finds for the defendants and further rules that this cause of action be dismissed with prejudice,” Magistrate Pamela McGilton wrote.

The MIC attorneys’ motion to dismiss cited lack of jurisdiction based on the Metlakatla Indian Community’s sovereign tribal status.

The attorneys argued that sovereign immunity protects not only the tribe, but individual tribal officials acting in their official capacity.

Scudero, who was out of the state, had said he fully expected the MIC-appointed magistrate to dismiss his case, but he wanted to follow proper procedures.

Steven Booth, a Metlakatla resident, said some of Scudero’s supporters are continuing the process through the court system. He is working with Metlakatla resident Fred Dundas, who is acting as Scudero’s spokesman, to draft an appeal of the dismissal order.

According to a draft copy of the appeal, the dismissal failed to consider the tribe’s constitution, which requires reasonable notice and sufficient evidence of wrongdoing before the council can vote to impeach and remove the mayor.

The draft appeal also argues that sovereign immunity does not allow the tribe to deny equal protection under law, or deprive residents of liberty or property.

The group also has sent a petition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, asking for the federal agency’s intervention.

Ben said during late February that the conflict appeared to be an internal issue, which means the BIA cannot get involved.

“They have their own constitution and bylaws,” Ben said. “The only thing we can do is ensure the protection of (tribal) property and assets. ... As long as the government is running, we have no reason to step in.”