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POLITICAL TURMOIL ESCALATES AS PRESIDENT FIRES FOUR COUNCILORS

The political turmoil within the Seneca Nation of Indians escalated Thursday with:

The nation's president firing four tribal councilors who work for the nation.

A call by a former ally of the Seneca president to resign.

A major defection in the governing Seneca Party.

A date of Oct. 23 was set for hearings on the impeachment of a Seneca Party peacemaker.

In-fighting that has sidelined passage of a budget for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

"If there is no budget, the nation will shut down," said J. Conrad Seneca, who presented a tentative budget to the Tribal Council on Aug. 31.

"It would not be the first time a budget was not approved on time," countered Duane J. "Jim" Ray, president of the Seneca Nation.

Seneca played a leading role in the Seneca Party sweeping the 1998 elections that propelled Ray, a political novice, into the president's office and himself into the treasurer's office.

"I am disassociating myself from the Seneca Party and the president," Seneca announced Thursday. "I believe in political parties to get into office, but once elected, the official must work for all the nation's people and not for selfish interests."

The relationship between the two men has eroded to the point that Seneca is now calling for Ray to step down as president.

"That's J.C.'s (Seneca) prerogative, and I respect that," Ray responded.

Ray earlier this week fired four tribal councilors from their government jobs, including two, Michael John and Arlene Bova, who are members of his Seneca Party.

Also fired were Shelly Lichey and Ina Locke of the People's Party.

Ray called the firings a reorganization move.

"It is the administration's prerogative when necessary and when we feel there are other members of the nation more willing to work with the administration," he said.

In letters to Ray, Seneca took the position that Ray had no authority to fire the four people.

Seneca argued John's and Bova's positions were under the province of the Tribal Council, that Lichey worked directly for Seneca as nation purchasing agent and that the Health Department, which Locke is the administrator of, was exempt from employee lay-offs because of reorganization.

All four councilors are members of the casino negotiating team appointed by the Tribal Council -- a committee Ray tried, unsuccessfully, to replace in a power struggle for control of any casino that might become a reality.

"We will continue in our jobs," said John, who is also chairman of the casino committee. "The president is backed into a corner and he is lashing out at anyone he perceives as an enemy."

Paula Snyder, a peacemaker judge, is accused of accepting a bribe to block enactment of a Trade and Commerce Act that required Seneca business people to pay a tariff from their sales to the nation and for handing down biased and prejudicial decisions in Family Court cases.

The charges were brought by Robert Jones, who won a land battle with Ross John Sr. -- a supporter of Ray -- and by a group of concerned Senecas.

Snyder could not be reached to comment.

Jones also asked for the impeachment of Ray who, he said, "refused to follow the Tribal Council's directive to enforce removal of Beverly Snyder (Ross John's sister) from my property."

Ray described any impeachment efforts as those "of disgruntled members of our community who are trying to impede the progress of this administration."

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