- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

WINNEBAGO, Neb. (AP) - The embattled chairman of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska has resigned.

The Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1BR77LC ) reports that John Blackhawk, who served as chairman for 20 years, resigned Tuesday. His resignation comes in the wake of an audit that alleges he and other tribal council members gave themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses and tribal casino gifts.

A tribal investigative committee released its report in February detailing the allegations. The audit say the council gave itself salary increases of 35 percent in fiscal year 2013 and that at least one council member gave loans to family members. The committee said it also found that council members received bonuses with no evidence that those bonuses were approved by the council.

The corruption allegations surfaced when the tribe’s gambling commission learned about casino-funded debit cards that were issued to tribal employees and council members as bonuses and payments

Blackhawk declined to comment about the allegations.

“I lost my motivation,” he said. “I’m very proud of my service.”

Two other council members have recently resigned, and another has been suspended.

The tribal council has not found an interim chairperson to complete the rest of Blackhawk’s term. The former chairman was up for re-election in October. According to Sharon Redhorn-Chamberlain, a community group leader, the tribe may need to consider emergency measures to ensure that the government can continue.

Lance Morgan, president and CEO of the Winnebago Tribe’s economic arm, Ho-Chunk Inc., says he was saddened to learn of Blackhawk’s resignation.

“If you judge John Blackhawk’s contribution to the tribe, then you have to take in account the last 20 years,” he said. “It’s been the most successful 20 years we’ve had in our modern era.”

Keely Bassette, one of the leaders of a community group that is calling for several council members to resign due to the audits allegations, said that “The people see this as a great victory, and we’re also saddened by it.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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