A recall effort filed against all 9 members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes Council was largely unsuccessful in a recall election Saturday, with the Council Chairman and one other the only members that were recalled.
Chairman Dennis Patch was unseated by only 2 votes in the special election. After canvassing the vote on Sunday and Monday, the results of the Election Committee were then certified by the Tribal Council. Council member Valerie Welsh-Tabho was the other member recalled.
The recall effort was started by tribal members Tim Stevens-Welsh and Amber Van Fleet, who were opposed to talks the Tribal Council had been having that considered ways to address the southwestern water crisis, what role CRIT would have in regional water management, and explored possibilities of using some of CRIT’s unused water rights off-reservation.
They said that water is precious to CRIT, should not be used for economic benefit, and said the Tribal Council was gambling with the tribe’s future and acting in ‘secret’.
The council members responded, saying that because water is precious to CRIT, it has the need to manage it well, considering all options, that the water is an economic resource already, that the tribal council would never ‘gamble’ with the future of the tribe, that the needs of the tribe would be part of any agreement made in the future, and that there were no actual agreements or even formal negotiations yet anyway.
In response to the results of the election, Van Fleet used her public Facebook page to allege corruption, to say that CRIT is being run by “tyrants”, to call the Council “cheating bastards” and to say that because there were some spoiled ballots that were disregarded by the election committee, the integrity of the election was “compromised”. Spoiled ballots are present in every election, and include intentionally and unintentionally spoiled votes. It is normal policy in the United States to have a process for disregarding them.
In the short term, the news means that Vice-Chairman Keith Moses will be acting chairman for a period of time, with a seven-member council instead of nine. A new election will be called in the next few months, which will be open to qualified candidates for the position of Tribal Council Member and Chairman. Both Patch and Welsh-Tabho are qualified to run as candidates for their seats again.