People elected to tribal offices are exempt from a portion of the constitution that involves who can run for state and local offices. The Michigan Supreme Court issued an opinion Monday.
The Michigan constitution says that if a person is convicted of a felony involving dishonesty or fraud, and that stems from their position in state, local, or federal government, then that person can’t run for another elective office in Michigan. The court said in its opinion that tribes do not count as “local governments.”
Fred Paquin was on the board of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians governing body. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. Paquin argued that he could still run for city council. He said that was because he was a member of a tribe, which doesn’t fall under the categories in the constitution.
“Nowhere have I found a definition of local government in any statute in Michigan or other provision that includes a sovereign Indian tribe,” said Paquin’s attorney, Joseph Kwiatkowski during arguments in front of the Michigan Supreme Court.
The court agreed with Paquin saying that to call a tribe a local government would, “reach for a strained interpretation of that term.”