IGNACIO – Southern Ute tribal elders said Thursday they expect to have sufficient signatures to recall Chairman Clement Frost and five council members.
During a meeting, elders agreed the Tribal Council needs new and wiser blood that values native traditions and the voices of constituents.
“You can’t have people in there for years who do nothing,” tribal elder Renee Cloud said. “They do a sloppy job. They’re careless in what they’re doing. There are some people who are there just to be there, and they do nothing for us.”
Earlier this summer, the elders addressed the council with several concerns about their leadership and policy. Specifically, they complained the council hires too many people from outside the tribe and lacks experience to address social issues on the reservation.
Recall efforts are directed at Frost as well as Alex Cloud, Amy Barry, James M. Olguin, Mel Baker and Tyson Thompson. Council member Ramona Eagle was excluded because she is serving as interim after replacing Howard D. Richards in February.
The Durango Herald attempted to reach Tribal Council members Thursday for comment, but the request was referred to the council’s legal department, which did not immediately return a phone call.
Elders must obtain 275 signatures from eligible tribal voters for each petition. Elder Lynda D’Wolf said the signatures haven’t been counted yet, but she is confident there are enough to oust the six.
“We had an elders meeting with the council last week, and I had people calling me,” D’Wolf said. “There is no control. There is no direction. Our chairman is old. They’re having in-house fighting.”
The petition numbers will be presented in October, a month preceding the election, she said. Eagle and Alex Cloud are up for re-election in November. Council members serve three-year terms. If the recall is successful, Eagle and Alex Cloud would leave office without their six-month severance pay and could not run in the upcoming election.
One prospective candidate is familiar. Nephew to the chairman, Kevin Frost, an attorney and University of Denver graduate, plans to vie for one of the seats as he has done before.
Kevin Frost attended Thursday’s meeting with the elders.
“I want my tribal members to come first,” he said. “It takes elders, not people in their 20s, saying, ‘I know.’ They repeat the same mistakes. This has been going on since I was 10. Everyone is still the same. I wonder why we allow ourselves to be oppressed and stuck in the past?”
Kevin Frost commended the elders for finally tiring of the “general malaise.” Although he is related to the current chairman, he said he can separate “business” from “personal” matters.
The list of council hopefuls will be known Monday, then elders will start coordinating social events to support their favored candidates.
If new membership takes office, D’Wolf said she wants to see better control of the tribe’s Growth Fund and higher standards put in place to qualify to run for the council. Currently, council members must be 24 years old and live within reservation boundaries, she said.
Recalls have created discord within the tribe before. In the early 2000s, John E. Baker was ousted from office, and in 2003, Matthew Box resigned at the tribe’s request.
D’Wolf hopes future leadership is restored to the days under former chairman Leonard Burch, who died in 2003.
“When he was chairman, we didn’t have this,” she said. “We had a clear-cut direction then.”