Monday, April 27, 2009

Tribal Member Asks Tribal Court For Constitutional Ruling On Petitioning Laws

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Tribal member Michael Bartha filed a complaint in Mohegan Tribal Court on Friday seeking a constitutional interpretation of the petitioning rights of Tribal members in regards to enacting ordinances.

Bartha was one of three sponsors of a March 25th petition (Petition Number 2009-02) that, if judged a legal petition, would allow Tribal members to vote in a referendum to enact their own version of a freedom of information ordinance.

Article XII, Section 1 of the Mohegan Constitution states that "The members of The Tribe reserve to themselves the power to propose ordinances and resolutions and to enact or reject the same at the polls independent of the Tribal Council upon petition of thirty-five (35) of the registered voters within seven (7) days of such action."

The Tribe's election ordinance, approved by the Tribal Council, does not allow for enacting ordinances (laws) by a petition of 35 tribal members as permitted in the constitution. Section 212, Part 2, of the Election Code which states, in part, “For any petition to … propose ordinances and resolutions … requires the verified signatures of at least forty percent (40%) of the registered voters of The Tribe …”

While Bartha believes the petition is legal based on the constitution, even the constitution is not entirely clear. While the constitution says, as noted above, that 35 tribal members can enact an ordinance another section of the constitution says that signatures of 40 percent of the voters must sign a petition to enact an ordinance.

Bartha asserts that Section 212, Part 2, of the Election Code violates his right to petition to enact ordinances as guaranteed under the Mohegan Constitution and asks the Tribal Court to rule on the constitutionality of Section 212, part 2, of the Election Code as it relates to enacting ordinances by petition and, further, to declare that a referendum vote by tribal members be held in accordance with the petition (Petition 2009-02) submitted to the Election Committee on March 25, 2009.

The above petition is not to be confused with two petitions (petition 2009-01 and 2009-03) submitted that sought to reject freedom of information ordinances previously approved by the Tribal Council this year.