A major shakeup could be coming to the Puyallup Tribe of Indians’ government.
Tribal members have collected more than 700 signatures on a petition that could force a recall vote of two councilmen affiliated with a group critical of longtime leaders. If the signatures are certified, David Bean and James Miles could be voted off of the seven-person council.
It would be the first recall vote in 20 years, former councilwoman Sylvia Miller said. The tribal council oversees all business of the tribe, one of Pierce County’s largest employers.
"They’ve divided our tribe," she said, "and we want our tribe back."
But Miles and Bean say the recall attempt is the tribe’s old guard trying to reclaim lost political power and challenge their critics to produce documents backing up allegations.
About 40 recall supporters met on the banks of the Puyallup River in Tacoma’s Tideflats to announce the success of the signature-gathering process. They needed 691 signatures and had 702 as of Saturday afternoon.
"They’re a cultural embarrassment," tribal member Marian Smith said. "They’re not living the way we were raised to behave. That’s the worst part. They’re dishonoring our traditions and our culture. They’re arrogant."
The petition will be submitted at the tribe’s offices Monday morning. The election committee will then count and verify the signatures. The tribal council will have 30 days to set a date for a special election.
A majority vote can remove Miles and Bean from office. If both are removed, the two candidates with the most votes will fill the remainder of their terms. Miles and Bean would be barred from running for tribal council for five years.
About 2,600 members are registered to vote, former election committee member Nadine Dillon said.
The list of the recall organizers’ complaints against Bean and Miles is long, but many at Saturday’s gathering seemed particularly upset with alleged misconduct during the June tribal council elections, including charges of undercounting of votes, filling the election committee with allies and campaigning near the entrance of the polling station.
But Bean said the tribe has already investigated those claims, and security-camera footage exonerates him.
Other grievances include firing long-term employees of the tribe, hiring of friends and lack of respect for elders. Bean said the tribe has procedures in place for personnel decisions, and that the council hasn’t played an active role in hirings or firings.
Proponents of the recall believe Full Circle is acting as a special-interest group from inside the government – something forbidden by the tribal law.
"We could tell you a million things they did," Charlene Matheson said. "But a lot of it is their lack of compassion and that they don’t uphold our constitution."
But Full Circle was founded to shake up the tribe’s establishment. And Bean said critics have yet to come up with concrete evidence.
"When they go out to solicit signatures, they left their issues very vague," he said. "They leave the door open to spread misinformation."
Some members have told Bean they signed the petition because they heard Full Circle members were in favor of reducing the amount in the monthly check of profit-sharing every member receives each month.
"We’ve had some people tell us they’ve requested to have their named removed from the petition because of that," he said.
Bean plans on calling for an investigation into the methodology of the signature-collecting.
About 50 tribal members founded Full Circle in 2005. The list of grievances against long-time members included corruption, nepotism, absenteeism and alcohol abuse. Three members – Bean, Miles and Nancy Shippentower-Games – have been elected in the past three years.
The recall is a test for two of the council’s junior members, an elder said.
"When you get recall attempt, you have to go through it. It’s a baptism," Harold Farris said. "If these people are going to be on the tribal council, they need to be able to face all the issues."