As a result of the alleged theft of a check intended for a Fond du Lac Reservation bike path, Fond du Lac tribal councilor Vanessa Northrup is now facing a legal case from one direction, and the ire of her band members from the other.
On Tuesday, Feb. 27, Fond du Lac Band member and petition spokesperson Bryan Bosto presented the five Reservation Business Committee members with a 40-page petition containing 247 signatures of resident eligible voters asking for Northrup's removal, for "malfeasance in the handling of tribal affairs by taking a check intended for a reservation project and signing and depositing it in her personal account."
Bosto also presented the RBC with copies of the $2,000 check, written Aug. 30, 2016. The check from the University of Minnesota was discovered missing as part of a routine audit in 2017, according to RBC Secretary/Treasurer Ferdinand Martineau. Northrup repaid the money after the check was discovered missing.
In November, Martineau recommended in his monthly newspaper column that band members circulate a petition to have Northrup removed from office. He said in his column that the constitution of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe states it's his responsibility to make a recommendation.
"The petition doesn't depend on charges being filed within the state court system; it's two different paths," Martineau told the Pine Journal then.
For the petition process to trigger an RBC hearing, band members had to collect signatures of 20 percent of the resident eligible voters. That doesn't include band members who live outside the reservation boundaries, Martineau said.
Bosto and about a dozen other FDL Band members have been gathering signatures since Nov. 29, and presented more than enough Tuesday to meet the 20 percent mark, he said.
"I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who stood up and signed the petition and those that went to get signatures," Bosto told the Pine Journal. "We couldn't have accomplished this much without them."
Now the band has 15 days to verify signatures, membership and residence.
If the signatures are verified, the RBC is supposed to schedule a hearing open to band members, but not the general public. Northrup would present her defense and any witnesses there, in front of her fellow RBC members.
"There is a judge and jury, but that's the tribal council, because we're the ones who hear the complaint," Martineau said. "The RBC makes the final decision."
Meanwhile, an omnibus hearing in the legal case is scheduled for March 7.
Northrup did not respond to an email from the Pine Journal and FDL Chairman Kevin DuPuis said he would make a statement at a later time, as he was unavailable by press time. Northrup previously declined to comment on the case while it was still under investigation.
Northrup was elected to her District 1 RBC seat in June 2016. She has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a master's degree in tribal administration and governance. She has worked as a school resource officer, community officer, gang specialist and investigated crimes against women and children, according to the candidate profile published in the Pine Journal in June 2016. She also has a business finance and management degree.
Any appeal of the RBC decision - should it get that far - would be to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Martineau said.