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Ute Mountain Ute petition seeks finance investigation

‘People want change,’ tribal member says
The road to Towaoc on the Ute Mountain Ute tribe. A petition for referendum is circulating in town urging more government transparency and an investigation into the tribe’s finances.

Ute Mountain Ute tribal members are urging an investigation into the tribe’s finances and are calling for more government transparency.

They are circulating a petition for a referendum that calls for an independent investigation about whether there has been “misuse of funds at the tribal finance department.”

The referendum also calls for “tribal members and officials involved in financial corruption be removed from office.” It demands that “a complete accountability and report of the tribal financial expenditure be subject to public inspection and review.”

The petition was reviewed by The Journal. So far, two-thirds of the signatures needed have been obtained, according to a tribal member who spoke on condition of anonymity. However they have yet to be verified by the tribe’s election board.

The petition for referendum is pursuant to the tribe’s laws, the tribal member said. Under those regulations, the petition must obtain valid signatures from 25 percent of voters, or about 300, to have merit.

According to tribal government rules, if the petition for referendum is deemed valid, then the referendum goes to a vote of the wider tribe electorate.

It began circulating in October after witnesses reported that several staff of the finance department were being escorted out of the tribal government complex by security officers.

“There are rumors of misuse of funds, but there is no communication about it to the people from the tribal council and chairman who were elected by the people,” said the tribal member who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The signatures are evidence that the people want change.”

The U.S. attorney’s office and U.S. Department of Justice have jurisdiction over felony crimes committed on Native American reservations.

U.S. Attorney spokesman Jeff Dorschner would not “confirm or deny” the existence of any investigation into the tribe’s finances. He said there have been no arrests made or charges filed.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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