Resignation comes after convictions related to bison poaching
The vice chairman of the Spokane Tribe has resigned under significant pressure from tribal members after being convicted of bison poaching in Montana.
Rudy Peone, chairman of the Spokane Tribal Business Council, announced in an email that Rodney W. Abrahamson resigned on Thursday.
Abrahamson was convicted of five misdemeanors after he illegally killed two bison north of Yellowstone National Park in February. Montana wildlife agents say he lied about his identity and claimed to be a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, which has treaty rights to hunt bison.
He had been fighting attempts to remove him from office even after tribal members overwhelmingly voted to remove him.
The Spokane Tribe’s constitution says council members cannot remain in office “if convicted of a felony or of a misdemeanor involving dishonesty.” Abrahamson was convicted of obstruction as a result of providing a false identity.
After Abrahamson refused to resign, some tribal members launched a recall effort that was put on hold by a tribal judge who required that signatures be verified a second time. In the meantime, tribal members gathered enough signatures to hold a meeting of tribal membership on May 18 to vote on a resolution requiring that the council remove Abrahamson from office for violating the constitution.
Members voted 185-7 to oust Abrahamson, who did not appear at the meeting. The other four council members voted 4-0 to accept the resolution.
“Our constitution is very important to us,” said Buzz Gutierrez, a former tribal business council member and chairman who signed the resolution calling for Abrahamson’s removal from office. “It has to be abided by all of us.”
On Monday, Spokane Tribal Court Judge Pro Tem Lawrence Numkena granted an injunction delaying Abrahamson’s removal from office until a hearing on May 31. Abrahamson argued that the resolution violated the tribal constitution.
On Wednesday the tribal council voted 3-1 to allow the recall to proceed if the hearing on May 31 did not result in Abrahamson’s removal from office. Peone cast the lone vote against the resolution. Abrahamson was absent for the vote.
Peone’s email to tribal members said that a special election will be held June 15 to select Abrahamson’s replacement.
Attempts to reach Peone and Abrahamson were unsuccessful.