A Different Voice Serving the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate

Corruption on a Grand Scale

in Courts & Crime/SWO Politics by
High in the Coteau des Prairie hills – “God’s Country” as he often calls it — Former Vice-Chairman Donovan White moves sand and gravel to the beach areas in preparation for the summer season, while his youngest son plays outside on this cool, but sunny spring day. It’s been nearly three weeks since Tribal Council removed him from office, declaring him “guilty” on all nine charges in a tie-vote, 4-4, that was broke by Chairman Flute, 5-4.  Since that time, Donovan published one Open Letter in the tribal newspaper Sota Iya Yapi alleging “lies on a grand scale”, and urging tribal members to demand to see the evidence from their Council person. Unfortunately, their problem is that there is no evidence.

The Timeline

In November, White beat his opponent, incumbent Garryl Rousseau Sr., on a platform of addressing the corruption that afflicts our Tribal Government. He organized a “March Against Corruption”, when Chairman Renville was removed.
There was contention even before White was sworn in, and he was hindered at every turn. The following steps were taken to remove him.
  • Prior to taking office, the lame-duck Council moved all of the key departments from the Vice-Chairman’s office to the Chairman’s office, but Chairman Flute refused to release the new Organizational Chart. HOTOKECA News requested the new org chart in early February, but staff could not release it, stating that Chairman Flute wanted to explain why it was changed.
  • In December, Chairman Flute and Donovan, who was still the Building Manager reporting to the Chairman, have a heated exchange of words that almost came to fisticuffs, with Chairman Flute accusing Donovan of holding secret meetings with the new Council behind his back.
  • The IT Department, now overseen by the Chairman’s Office, failed to set up the incoming Vice-Chairman’s office with basic necessities like computers and phones or logins, and all the former Vice-Chair’s computers were wiped clean of data. It was during this timeframe that political appointee; Michael Roberts requested and received data from Lexi Fancher, the remaining budget office employee, on a jump drive found in the Vice-Chair’s suite. This is normally an acceptable work-around, and the Tribe’s IT Policy doesn’t say anything about jump-drive usage. To make things even stranger, Fancher did not give Michael the documents he requested, which was the Vice-Chairman’s Budget. She downloaded to the drive a spreadsheet containing the Chairman’s Office budget and another spreadsheet that had all three Executives operating budgets on it. Fancher claimed later that she was coerced by Vice-Chairman White into releasing the budget, stating that she didn’t want to because it had confidential information on it. The trouble with her claim is this – The Vice-Chairman not only has the right to see the budget just as every Tribal Member does, he has the Constitutional duty to view and manage the budgets. Fancher’s hindering of the Vice-Chair’s ability to perform their duties is insubordination on her part since she reports directly to the Vice-Chairman.
  • Council jumps on this “misuse of a flashdrive” charge as a reason for the Vice-Chair’s removal, even though he was not involved in the “flashdrive” transaction.
  • Seven people at the Old Agency District Meeting make a motion that passed to remove the Vice-Chairman. The motion was made by Jerome Renville, Sr. who now holds the position of Building Manager, Donovan’s old job. No other Districts make the same motion, but somehow Council interprets this to warrant a Removal Hearing.
  • A Council Roundtable about a pending deadline for Barker Hill was scheduled. Chairman Flute was in Washington DC on travel.  According to Donovan, a couple of Councilmen ask to meet in Council Chambers because they didn’t like meeting in Council Suite.  While in Council Chambers, Big Coulee Councilman Alvah Quinn, Sr., makes a motion to go into a Special Session and the motion passed.  The Vice-Chair oversees the session per the Constitution.  When the Chairman returns, he questions each Council Member if they requested a Council Session and all say “no”.  Later during the hearing Mr. Quinn retracts his “no”, stating that he does now remember making that motion.
  • The Vice-Chairman and staff are removed pending a hearing. Council refuses to release the charges to the public.
  • The Vice-Chairman files an injunction against the Removal Hearing for several reasons, with the main reason being to ask that the Chairman and Long Hollow Councilman Justin Chanku be recused from voting in the Hearing because of their direct involvement in the Vice-Chair’s allegations of the Chairman overspending his authority without Council approval. Injunction denied by Judge Jones.
  • The Vice-Chairman is removed, despite no wrong-doing and despite Council providing no evidence or cause to the People who voted him in.
  • Donovan files an appeal, but as of today, the appeal has not been addressed, and the deadline for their response is days overdue.  Just another example of our Tribal Law not being followed.


Nothing in this fiasco has been legal according to our codes, policies, and past history. There was no widespread outrage over “misuse of a jump drive”, and the only evidence brought forth was that which exposed the depth and breadth of the organized crime and entitled arrogance that exists within our Tribal government.
Even so, Donovan remains committed to his mantra of “Anything for the People” as he awaits a response on his appeal. Early on during this removal, one twice-indicted Tribal Member offered a steak dinner on a bet that the Vice-Chairman was going to be removed.
The Oyate lost out on more than just a steak dinner.

1 Comment

  1. This whole fiasco needs to be investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sioux Falls. Our council and chairman violated Donovan White’s due process which is a constitutional right of every U.S. citizen. The council and chairman violated the freedom of information act ( FOIA ) which supercedes tribal law. A hearing should be held in federal court due to conflict of interest of several council members and the tribal chairman. We need to get a petition circulated demanding a fair hearing in federal court because they have violated Donovan White’s U.S. constitutional civil rights afforded all U.S. citizens.

    Yes, I agree we have a corrupt tribal government and the people are being short changed as a result.

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