- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

SISSETON, S.D. (AP) - The tribal council on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation voted Friday to reinstate its chairman, who was suspended earlier this month for ordering mandatory drug tests for all tribal government employees.

Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Chairman Bruce Renville said he was pleased with the council’s vote and now wants to move forward to address issues on the reservation such as housing and employment opportunities.

“I think I and the council can put this behind us now and work on some projects that will help our community,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s much better to work together than to try to solve something on your own.”

Renville was suspended earlier this month for ordering mandatory drug tests for all tribal government employees in August, which council members said violated personnel policies that spell out conditions for drug testing. Renville said he was within his authority as chairman to order the drug tests and was doing the right thing.

He said drugs are still a “major problem” on the reservation and he will work to combat them.

Renville’s attorney, Brendan Johnson, who until recently served as the U.S. attorney for the state, said the council approached Renville’s reinstatement judiciously. Before the hearing, which lasted about seven hours, he said he was worried the council members had already made up their minds.

“They asked good, strong, intelligent questions,” Johnson told the AP. “They weighed the evidence fairly and gave Chairman Renville a fair hearing.”

Vice Chairman Garryl Rousseau Sr., who had been acting chairman after Renville’s suspension, told the Argus Leader newspaper that the decision came after what he called “a spirited discussion.”

“There was some compromise on both sides,” Rousseau said.

The Lake Traverse reservation spans five counties in South Dakota and two in North Dakota.

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