A Blackfeet judge has issued an arrest warrant for a state senator and tribal leader for not paying his fine for a conviction on obstruction and drunken-driving charges for fleeing a traffic stop on the northwestern Montana reservation a year ago.
But Sen. Shannon Augare said Thursday he has paid the fine on two separate occasions, once in December and again on Tuesday. The warrant signed by Judge Marshalene Last Star is driven by an ongoing political dispute that has split the ruling Blackfeet Tribal Business Council into two irreconcilable factions, he said.
Last Star’s May 2 arrest warrant says Augare disobeyed a court order and commanded him to appear at the courthouse. Tribal officials directed by Chairman Willie Sharp Jr. and councilman Paul McEvers, who are part of the faction that oppose Augare and three other councilmen, provided The Associated Press with a copy of the warrant.
Authorities have been unable to locate Augare to arrest him, tribal attorney Dawn Running Wolf said.
In October, Augare pleaded guilty in tribal court to charges that he fled a Glacier County sheriff’s deputy who stopped him for drunken and reckless driving on U.S. Highway 2 within the Blackfeet Reservation in May 2013.
Then-Blackfeet Chief Judge Allie Edwards sentenced Augare to a 37-day suspended jail sentence and a $1,150 fine. But Augare didn’t have to pay any of that fine if he bought $200 worth of toys for a Toys for Tots program by Dec. 12.
Augare told the AP by cellphone he paid the fine in December but the receipts that can prove it are in a tribal building the Sharp administration won’t allow him to access. He said a member of his security detail gave the court another $400 on Tuesday to take his name off the warrant list.
He said he doesn’t recognize the authority of Last Star, who was appointed by Sharp, but submitted the recent payment under protest.
“This bogus warrant was issued by non-recognized judges appointed by the Willie Sharp faction,” Aguare said. “It’s nothing more than a political football, and unfortunately they’re trying to draw the media into this.”
Running Wolf said the money order is not enough, and that Augare must appear in court for arraignment on the warrant. There is no record he complied with the original order to buy $200 worth of toys, she said.
“We have rules and we have a process and he’s wanting to be treated special,” she said.
Augare and three council members split from council leaders Sharp and Forrestina Calf Boss Ribs last year. Sharp’s faction was bolstered when he reappointed three council members who had previously been suspended and appointed two others that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs does not recognize.
The schism has resulted competing directives, multiple shutdowns of governmental operations, the firings of dozens of tribal employees and delayed paychecks for those workers who remain.
The political pressure is ratcheting up again with elections scheduled for June 3. Augare is not running for re-election to the council.
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