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Tribal hearing set for Monday

Vanessa Northrup

After more than 20 percent of resident eligible voters signed a second petition to have her removed, a tribal hearing for Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee member Vanessa Northrup is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, July 30 in the Cloquet Tribal Center gymnasium.

The District 1 RBC representative is accused of signing and depositing a check into her personal bank account that was intended for a reservation project.

The check in question was for $2,000 from the University of Minnesota to the FDL Band to help with construction of a new bike trail in August 2016. RBC Secretary/Treasurer Ferdinand Martineau said Northrup repaid the money after the check was discovered missing as part of a routine audit in 2017 and traced to her bank account.

On Monday, July 23, the RBC posted a public notice on the FDL Band website stating Northrup had been notified June 6 that the latest petition had been deemed sufficient to schedule a hearing for removal from office "for malfeasance in the handling of tribal affairs" — misconduct or wrongdoing — and informing band members of the hearing.

According to Section 10 of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution, the hearing is open to all band members, representatives of the accused RBC member and others the RBC determines are "reasonably necessary to maintain order or provide for the efficient conduct of the hearing." It's not open to the general public.

Northrup will present her defense and any witnesses, with final judgment to be rendered by RBC members.

Northrup declined to comment in advance of the hearing.

According to petition spokesperson Brian Bosto, the RBC could vote after Monday's hearing to remove Northrup, set a recall election or take no action.

Any appeal of the RBC decision — should it get that far — would have to be to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Criminal charges of felony theft against Northrup were filed in Sixth District Carlton County Court in December, but those will be dismissed as long as Northrup completes the agreed-upon diversion program offered by the Carlton County Attorney's Office.

Had Northrup been convicted of a felony while serving on the RBC, it also would have been grounds for removal, according to Article X of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution.

RBC members voted 3-2 to reject the first petition because it was filed more than 90 days after the date of the first signature, so it never reached the hearing stage.