By Todd Wels
Triplicate staff writer
Yurok Tribal Chairwoman Susan Masten blasted a recent advertisement by opponent Richard Haberman, which accuses her of lying to Yurok voters, as desperate measures Friday.
She said Haberman was attempting to mislead Yurok voters on the eve of Wednesdays tribal elections, which will determine who will serve as Tribal Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson.
To create personal attacks is not OK, Masten said.
Haberman countered by defending the advertisement, and stating that it was Masten who was attempting to mislead tribal voters.
Thats for her to prove, because its not false, he said.
At the heart of the controversy is a claim by Masten that she received a Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University in 1975, a claim made in campaign literature issued by the Masten campaign in 1997.
Habermans advertisement, which ran in Thursdays edition of The Daily Triplicate, states that Masten had not, in fact, received her degree from the university.
The advertisement includes a letter from OSU Registrar Barbara S. Balz, dated Oct. 16 of this year, which states: This is to verify that Susan Moria Bowers Masten ... attended Oregon State University from June 1970 through December 1975, as an Undergraduate student in the College of Liberal Arts. She achieved Senior class standing, however, no degree is shown as awarded.
A call made by The Daily Triplicate to the OSU Registrars Office Friday received the same response.
However, a second call, made to the universitys Liberal Arts Department, revealed that Masten had, in fact, completed all of the necessary coursework to receive her degree, even if she had not graduated.
That is not receiving a degree, Haberman said.
A spokesman for the OSU Liberal Arts Department said she had sent Masten a letter confirming her status, but would not elaborate as to the contents of the letter, citing legal concerns.
In the advertisement, Haberman also contends Masten was lying when she stated that she worked on early drafts of the recently passed amendment to the Yurok Constitution. The amendment requires that any use of monies from the Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act be submitted to the tribe at large for approval, prior to the money being spent.
Haberman contends he and Councilwoman Bonnie Green initially proposed the amendment to the Tribal Council, where it received a chilly reception from both Masten and the council.
Haberman alleges that that reception only warmed after he and Green circulated petitions among the tribe at large.
Chairwoman Masten had nothing to do with the drafting of the petition or the amendment, Haberman said last month.
Masten said the impetus for the amendment came from conversations she had with Councilman Howard McConnell, who is currently running for Vice-Chairperson.
Masten said she and McConnell discussed potential amendments to the Yurok Constitution, when Masten proposed an amendment similar to the current one.
Masten said McConnell then discussed the subject with Haberman and Green.
They may not know that, Masten said, but its true.
Haberman said McConnell never contributed anything to the meeting, and had, in fact brought the information back to Masten.
Masten said she supported the amendment because she felt it was in the best interests of the Yurok Tribe.
I care very deeply about those dollars, she said.
She alleges in campaign literature that Haberman does not care as much about the funding.
In campaign literature circulated last month, Masten alleges that Haberman, as a member of the pre-Constitution Interim Council voted to give that funding to the attorneys in the Jessie Short v. United States court case, which attempted to make the sharing of timber revenues between the Hoopa and Yurok tribes more equitable.
Haberman said that allegation is entirely false, and cites a letter from the tribes Executive Director Troy Fletcher as evidence that he did not vote to give the money away.
Fletchers letter, dated Oct. 31, states: After a review of our files for the time period 1991-1993, I have not found any minutes or tapes that either verify or do not verify that you voted to give Settlement Account money to the Short attorneys. Please note that I had time to review approximately three-fourths of our files. There are additional files I did not have time to review.
Fletcher was out of the office Friday.
Habermans advertisement also contends that Masten used her influence as Chairperson to fire Yurok Tribe employees who disagreed with her political stance.
He accuses her of having fired her opponent Dale Ann Sherman. Sherman finished third in last months primary election.
Masten said that allegation is preposterous.
The chairperson does not hire and fire, she said, noting that the chairperson does, however, sign off on any hirings or firings as proposed by staff members beneath him or her. She said she will look into changing that fact if re-elected, to avoid the appearance of political favoritism.
Even if she did have the ability to hire and fire at a whim, Masten said it would be politically unwise to do so.
Politically, would I hire and fire at election time? she asked sarcastically. That costs me votes.
Habermans advertisement also accuses Masten of opposing assistance for tribe members who do not live on the reservation.
Haberman has made off-reservation aid a cornerstone of his campaign, stating that it is important to heal divisions within the tribe divisions he accuses Masten of creating.
Ive never done that, she said. She added that the reservations service area has been enlarged during her tenure.
However, Masten noted that there are some federally funded programs that are only available for Yuroks who actually live within the boundaries of the reservation.
Haberman also accuses Masten of of violating her promises to protect tribal culture by allowing Indian gravesites to be desecrated.
In an interview with The Daily Triplicate held Friday, Haberman accused Masten of ignoring the desecration of an Indian grave site by Caltrans employees on tribal land.
Masten was unavailable to answer that accusation however, she pointed out that she had held negotiations with Redwood State and National Parks regarding the protection of Indian grave sites, and by no means had compromised on the issue of grave desecration.
Masten said she was displeased at the direction that the campaign has turned.
This doesnt even feel good, she said.
Yeah, it has turned nasty but at her lead, Haberman said, adding: I tried not to get personal.
This late-in-the-campaign round of attacks is noteworthy because it has very little to do with the actual platforms both candidates are running on.
Both Haberman and Masten have pinned their campaigns on the theme of economic development for the tribe, though they have differing ways of achieving that goal.
Masten would continue with the tribes current efforts involving an economic development corporation, which provides assistance for tribe members trying to set up their own businesses. The company also provides low-interest loans to those tribe members.
Haberman would bypass that effort entirely, utilizing the tribes ability to act as a for-profit entity.
He would do so by heavily investing in tribal fisheries, giving tribal fishermen a place to sell their fish, while also selling the fish to the public at a profit. A portion of that profit would then be returned to the entire tribe via profit-sharing.
The election will be held Wednesday, Nov. 8. Both Tribal Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson serve three-year terms. There are no term limits for the positions.