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Opponent, 2 council members oppose LaRose certification for Leech Lake election

CASS LAKE—Leech Lake's longtime secretary/treasurer Arthur "Archie" LaRose was certified Tuesday as a candidate for the band's upcoming June election over the objections of an opponent and two other members of the tribal council.

Arthur “Archie” LaRoseDuring an acrimonious meeting Tuesday morning held at the Palace Casino Hotel, District II Representative Steve White and District I Representative Penny DeVault voted against certifying LaRose. At issue is LaRose's criminal record. He was convicted of third-degree assault and trespass in 1992.

The tribe conducts background checks on all candidates, and LaRose's background check came back clean, according to statements made by Chairman Faron Jackson, Sr., during the meeting. LaRose first served as secretary/treasurer from 2002-2008, then as chairman from 2008-2012. He returned to the secretary/treasurer position in 2014 and has held it since.

Though the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe's election ordinance states that a tribal member is ineligible as a candidate "if he or she has ever been convicted of any felony of any kind," District III Representative LeRoy Staples Fairbanks III and LaRose himself voted to certify. Jackson broke the tie, certifying LaRose and his three opponents: Steven Howard, Donald Finn and Arlen Wakefield.

In September 1991, LaRose was charged with first-degree burglary, two counts of third-degree assault, two counts of aiding and abetting third-degree assault, trespass, aiding and abetting kidnapping, second-degree criminal sexual conduct and aiding and abetting second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

A criminal complaint states that LaRose beat the victims because one of them stole a TV from him. A victim told police that one of the assailants also took off his underwear and pulled on his testicles during the beating.

Court records show that LaRose pleaded not guilty to all charges except the third-degree assault and trespass counts, to which he pleaded guilty. The rest of the charges were dismissed.

When he was sentenced in 1992, LaRose received a stay of imposition, meaning that once he successfully completed his probation—a five-year term for the assault and a one-year term for the trespass—the convictions would be downgraded to misdemeanors. He was discharged from probation and the felony assault charge was deemed a misdemeanor on Nov. 27, 1995.

One of LaRose's opponents, Donald Finn, argues that, though the charge was deemed a misdemeanor, LaRose is still ineligible to hold office. Finn referenced a similar situation that occurred in 2014, when Guy Green III attempted to run for the position of District III Representative.

Green, who was granted a stay of imposition after he was convicted of second-degree assault, was not certified and appealed the decision to the Tribal Election Court of Appeals.

The court determined that Green could not run for office, despite the fact that his conviction was deemed a misdemeanor.

Finn plans to appeal LaRose's certification, and hopes for a similar decision.

"We expected this to happen and we know it's going to go to the appellate courts," Finn said. "Precedent has already been set."

The election ordinance states that anyone who has filed a complete notice of candidacy can challenge the certification of another candidate, and that that challenge must be filed with the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe's executive director by the end of the second business day after the certification. Once the challenge is received, the Tribal Election Court of Appeals must convene within 24 hours and decide whether to uphold the certification.

LaRose denies that he was ever convicted of a felony.

"I was charged, yeah, big difference between being charged and convicted," LaRose told the Pioneer. "I was just charged with a felony and deemed a misdemeanor, convicted of a misdemeanor, that's the end result."

District I candidates Burton "Luke" Wilson, Kyle Fairbanks, Robbie Howe, Calvin Goggleye and Rose Robinson and District II candidates Steve White and Janice Dahmen were also certified Tuesday. The election is June 12.

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or gpastoor@bemidjipioneer.com

(218) 333-9796
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