St. Marks elected chair of Chippewa Cree tribal business council for 3rd time in 2 years

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HAVRE, Montana — For the third time in just over two years, members of the Chippewa Cree Tribe have elected Ken Blatt St. Marks as chairman of their tribal business committee.

St. Marks won Tuesday's election with 300 votes, compared with 200 for runner-up Dustin Whitford and 167 for Jonathan Windy Boy.

St. Marks previously was suspended from the post twice on misconduct allegations, but he has dismissed the claims as retaliation against him.

"I am thankful to those that continue to vote for me over and over and over," St. Marks said in a statement Thursday. "I feel we have a mandate from the people to get to work, work together, show each other mutual respect and make this place better for our members and our community."

St. Marks has said his chairmanship has been challenged in retaliation for his help with a federal corruption investigation that has led to numerous convictions for stealing money from the tribe or receiving kickbacks for awarding tribal contracts.

St. Marks was first elected in November 2012, but he was suspended on allegations of neglect and misconduct. The Interior Department has found that the tribe violated federal whistleblower laws when it suspended him.

A special election was scheduled, and St. Marks had to file an appeal to get his name on the ballot. He was re-elected in July 2013.

The results were appealed by runners-up who questioned whether a dozen voters used proper identification. A tribal appeals court found that even if those votes were thrown out, St. Marks would have easily won. He was seated for a day in November until he was suspended on allegations that he defrauded the tribe through his construction company. No charges have been filed against St. Marks.

The election board must give losing candidates a chance to appeal, but Whitford and third-place finisher Jonathan Windy Boy have said they don't intend to challenge the results.

"The Chippewa Cree people spoke again, and if this is what they want, I hope he can work with — and as far as I'm concerned, I will do my best to work with — whoever I have to work with," said Whitford, who holds a seat on the business committee for another two years.

Windy Boy said he wished the chairman luck, and would focus on his duties in the state Senate.

"Even though I was unsuccessful in that, it does not undermine the other work I am doing here," Windy Boy told the Havre Daily News. "I'm still supporting my tribe."

The chairman's seat will be up for re-election next year.

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