The already splintered Blackfeet Tribal Business Council is fracturing further. Chairman Willie Sharp Jr. said he plans on recommending that embattled councilor and state Sen. Shannon Augare be suspended at an upcoming meeting. The decision comes just days after Sharp wrote a letter to Augare asking that he step down from office until his legal issues are sorted out.
In May, Augare was pulled over by a Glacier County sheriff’s deputy near Cut Bank. According to the officer, Augare was driving recklessly and the inside of the vehicle smelled like alcohol. Augare told the officer he didn’t have jurisdiction and drove off. This summer, Augare was charged with misdemeanor counts of drunken driving, reckless driving and obstruction of a peace officer. He is being prosecuted in federal court and a trial has been set for Nov. 7.
“I’ve thought long and hard about this,” Sharp told the Beacon. “(And) I’m not protecting him.”
In July, Augare stepped back from his duties in the Senate because he didn’t want to “bring more distractions to the Legislature because of my legal issues.” Sharp said the Democratic legislator and councilor should have the same concerns for the tribal council.
“He doesn’t want to bring harm to the state, but what about our government?” Sharp asked.
On Oct. 11 Augare responded to Sharp’s letter and said he had no plans of stepping down from his role in tribal government. Augare called Sharp’s letter “political retaliation” after the councilor questioned some of the chairman’s recent actions.
“If a majority of the Council thought it was best for me to step down, I would respect their wishes and do so,” Augare wrote. “Until then, I will continue to do my job and abide by my oath of office.”
On Oct. 14, Sharp was more direct about Augare’s position with the council and said he would recommend that Augare be suspended at an upcoming meeting. Sharp said he would ask that the board consider the issue and that another councilor bring a motion to suspend Augare. According to the Blackfeet Constitution, a council “may expel a member for cause by two-thirds or more members of the entire Blackfeet Tribal Business Council voting for expulsion.”
Sharp said he was unsure if another councilor would bring the motion to the table, but added he hoped the council would do what’s best for the tribe. He said Augare’s situation has brought unwelcomed attention and criticism to the Blackfeet.
Sharp’s plan to possibly suspend Augare comes after a year of political unrest on the Blackfeet reservation. In 2012, five tribal councilors were suspended and Sharp has since ruled under an emergency declaration. Last month, seven people were arrested in an attempted government takeover in Browning.
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