- Associated Press - Thursday, September 17, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Suspended Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Chairman Bruce Renville should be commended for trying to clean up rampant drug abuse on the Dakotas reservation, not taken to task for an act of courage, a former state U.S. attorney said.

The Tribal Council suspended Renville earlier this month for ordering a surprise mass drug testing of hundreds of tribal government employees in August, calling it a misuse of power. The council will hold a hearing Friday on whether to remove him from office.

Renville, 71, is being represented by former South Dakota U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, who works on tribal issues for a Minneapolis law firm. Firing Renville would be a mistake, Johnson told the Argus Leader newspaper (https://argusne.ws/1KTnelD ).

“One of the reasons Chairman Renville was elected was to help reduce the drug problem,” Johnson said. “He has a responsibility as chief executive to make sure the workforce on the Sisseton Wahpeton reservation is a drug-free workplace.”

Renville didn’t order the drug testing for personal gain and was within his rights as chairman to take the action, Johnson said.

The Tribal Council told Renville in a letter that his action fell outside the tribe’s personnel policies that spell out conditions for drug testing.

Tribal Vice President and Acting Chairman Garryl Rousseau Sr. declined comment.

Johnson said his client is not guilty of misconduct and that he and Renville will try to turn the focus to “how to improve the process in the future” during Friday’s hearing.

“If they were concerned about the way drug tests were carried out, the tribe should absolutely have that conversation and work to fix it,” Johnson said. “If there are questions over the chairman’s ability to order drug tests of tribal employees, then perhaps the drug policy is too vague and there are problems in the way it is drafted. But those are not reasons to impeach your tribal chairman.”


Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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