SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah tribe’s leader who was ousted from office for accepting gifts from the Washington Redskins said Monday she plans to appeal the decision from council members who said she wrongly tied her tribe to the team’s divisive name.
Gari Lafferty was removed from her position as chairwoman of the Cedar City-based Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah Thursday. She doesn’t know exactly what form her appeal will take because it’s the first such action since the tribe adopted its constitution about 35 years ago.
“It’s uncharted territory,” she said.
She disputed the misconduct and ethical violations charges filed against her, saying the council knew about a trip she took last year to Washington D.C. to see the NFL team play and as well as an autographed football given to her son-in-law.
Team officials never asked her to endorse or advocate for the team’s name, she said. Lafferty got involved with the Redskins’ Original Americans Foundation after the foundation sent out a survey asking about tribal needs. It donated two vans to the southern Utah tribe, which are used as transportation for children and elders because many members don’t have cars, Lafferty said.
She maintained Monday the allegations are more related to her leadership style, and her suggestion that there be term limits for council members.
Council members issued a statement to The Associated Press Monday evening, saying that Lafferty’s appeal isn’t likely to succeed.
“Because Gari Lafferty has admitted to the conduct underlying the charges, and because the Tribal Council carefully and deliberately complied with all aspects of the Tribal Constitution in its removal hearing and decision, there is little room for appeal,” the council said in the statement.
In a statement last week, the other five members of the council said they weren’t informed of the gifts, which came shortly after ethical training barring the acceptance of items worth more than $50.
Vice chairwoman Jeanine Borchardt said those gifts wrongly tied the tribe to a name some American Indians find derogatory. One member of the Paiute tribe is a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to cancel the Washington Redskins. The federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor last year, but the team is appealing the decision.
The council voted to remove Lafferty and set a special election for April 30 to elect a new leader from among its members.
A spokesman for the Redskins’ Original Americans Foundation has said the allegations are an internal matter to be decided by the tribal council.
The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah has about 940 members and is based near Cedar City, about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City. The tribe of Utah consists of five bands: Cedar, Indian Peaks, Kanosh, Koosharem and Shivwits. Lafferty was elected to the tribe’s top leadership position about two years ago.
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