Sazue selected Crow Creek Tribe chairman

Fort Thompson, South Dakota (AP) April 2012

A former Crow Creek tribal leader who assisted in a federal investigation that led to the ouster of the previous chairman has regained his former seat on the reservation in central South Dakota.

Brandon Sazue Sr. won the election for tribal chairman last week. He replaces Wilfred Keeble, who held the post after former chairman Duane Big Eagle was convicted last year of bribery and conspiracy.

The Mitchell Daily Republic reports ( ) Big Eagle is serving a three-year prison term after a federal jury found him guilty on two counts of conspiracy to bribe a tribal official and one count of bribery involving an agent of a tribal government. Sazue wore a wire to tape more than 25 conversations with Big Eagle and several other tribal officials who were involved in bribes connected to school construction work. The secret recordings were used at Big Eagle’s trial.

Big Eagle had spent previous terms as tribal chairman totaling nearly 20 years.

Sazue had been elected chairman in 2008 but lost to Big Eagle by 11 votes two years later. Sazue unsuccessfully tried to appeal the results of the election two years ago, alleging vote-buying and other violations. Big Eagle said at the time the accusations were unfounded.

The charges related to tribal officials’ awarding of a $3.5 million contract to build a new dorm and kitchen facility after a 2005 fire at the tribal school, and later contracts to build housing at the school. Other tribal officials and contractors already had been convicted for their roles in the scheme, which involved contractors giving tribal officials thousands of dollars in bribes in return for receiving contracts. The tribal council also acts as the school board on the reservation.