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12:02 AM Mon, Dec. 17th

Tribal members seek to oust Rice

PRESCOTT – Ten Yavapai-Prescott Tribe members are asking the board of directors to remove President Stan Rice Jr. from office.

The 10 members made their official request to the tribe's four-member board of directors on Oct. 22 – the same day the Rice family filed a lawsuit against the board and 18 others in tribal court, tribal board of directors member Calvin Hunter Jr. said.

"Prior to that time, he was performing his duty adequately," Hunter said of the president.

Some of the 10 who are seeking Rice's removal are among the defendants in a Rice family lawsuit, which the Rice family subsequently removed to federal court, Hunter said.

The 10 people are charging Rice with breach of fiduciary duty and malfeasance, Hunter said.

"They feel he has not acted in the best interest of the tribe, and he also has a conflict of interest" because he is suing 22 tribal members including the board and elders, according to Hunter.

Hunter said he couldn't remember all the names of those who are seeking Rice's removal, or whether they included more charges, and tribal officials didn't get that information to the Daily Courier in time for this story.

Rice will have an opportunity to confront his accusers Tuesday, Hunter said. The meeting will be open to voting members of the tribe but no one else, he said.

The board then will decide whether to remove Rice from office, Hunter said. Although tribal members elected Rice, the tribe's articles of association give the board the power to remove him, Hunter said.

The Rices' attorney, Afton Jane Izen of Bellaire, Texas, disagrees. She says the articles are vague on the subject of removing the president from office.

The Rice family unsuccessfully sought a temporary restraining order to prevent others from removing them from the reservation and their tribal jobs. However, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Broomfield denied the restraining order Oct. 30.

The lawsuit defendants op-posed the temporary restraining order, saying the request was backed up by scant evidence that didn't indicate immediate and irreparable harm if the judge didn't issue a restraining order.

The board never has threatened to kick the family off the reservation, and has no plans to do so, Hunter said.

Rice said he has tried to stay out of the dispute because of his potential conflict of interest as president. When the board talks about the issue, he said he leaves the room. He declined to comment further.

Rice beat Pat McGee in the tribe's presidential election back in 1988 after she had served 16 consecutive years, tribal officials said.

McGee then won two more elections in 1990 and 1992 before dying while in office in 1994.

Tribal members elected Rice to become president again in 1994 and every two years since then.

Contact Joanna Dodder at jdodder@prescottaz.com