Candidates for Washoe tribal chairman face off | NevadaAppeal.com

Candidates for Washoe tribal chairman face off

by Susie Vasquez, Appeal Staff Writer

Candidates running for the job of Washoe Tribal chairman rallied around the issues of fiscal responsibility and preserving traditional culture during a Saturday Carson City forum.

The current tribal chair, Brian Wallace, is being scrutinized by his critics for his handling of the budget.

One of Wallace’s opponents, Benny Mills, said audits have shown up to $300,000 has been unaccounted for annually and he wants credibility returned to the office by separating the tribal chair from the group’s financial branches.

“That’s my primary goal,” he said. “Once that’s accomplished, everything else will fall into line.”

Wallace, a 45-year-old Stewart resident who is running for his fourth term, called the charges half-truths, lies and innuendoes.

“Audit compliance is a tool,” he said. “The tribe depends on tax revenues and some years are better than others.”

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He said land issues are at the top of his list, the restoration and maintenance of tribal lands critical to his people and traditional values.

“The Washoe need more land,” he said. “It’s essential to our survival. Our well-being comes from those lands.”

Wallace was the center of controversy last week when a tribal faction criticized Nevada Day parade organizers for making his one of the grand marshals. He refused to step down.

At Saturday’s forum, tribal chairman hopeful Joseph “Art” Sam said his focus is on preserving culture, but also cultivating business on tribal lands.

“I propose incorporating the values, customs and traditions of the Washoe culture into its decision-making processes,” Sam said. “A government that matches the culture.”

Calling for financial accountability to the people of the Washoe Tribe, candidate Al Granados is asking for a resolution for all non-compliance financial audit findings.

A Stockton resident, Granados is a graduate of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and has worked in the public sector for 35 years, including time as a budget officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

First-time candidate Steve Dexter, a Carson City resident, said the administration needs improvement overall, but would not define any problems.

“That’s Indian business,” he said.

By press time the sixth candidate, Kathie Wyatt, had not yet arrived at the debate.

Washoe Indians are spread among several colonies from Woodfords, Calif., to the Reno-Sparks area. More than 40 Washoe had arrived when the forum started at 5:30 p.m.

Some of Saturday’s candidates were from as far away as Stockton and all, regardless of where they live, are governed by the tribal council.