QUAPAW, Okla. – Embattled former Quapaw Chairman John L. Berrey threw his hat in the political ring on Monday seeking to fill the tribe’s highest position, a position he held for two decades.
The tribe’s Election Committee has not set a date for the special election.
In 2021, the Quapaw Nation Election Committee disqualified Berrey as a candidate in the vice-chairman race based on the complaints filed in Quapaw Nation Court accusing him of misappropriation of funds.
The Election Committee is addressing the issue but no decision has been made.
The tribe’s vacancy comes after former Quapaw Chairman Joseph Byrd resigned on Saturday. Bryd did not give a reason for his resignation, but a petition to recall his 2022 election was posted on the tribe’s official Facebook website.
The post states the Quapaw Nation Election Committee confirmed the recall petition was valid and the petition for Byrd’s recall “was confirmed to have met all the requirements of a valid petition.”
The recall petition cited a list of grievances against him including “failing to attend tribal meetings and of failing to participate in a sufficient number of tribal votes,” according to Indianz.com, an American Indian website posting news, information and entertainment.
Byrd was also running for office in the Cherokee Nation.
The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court upheld the tribe’s Election Commission’s decision allowing Byrd to stay in the race, election officials confirmed on Tuesday.
“I just want to help out,” Berrey said when asked why he was running for Chairman.
“I appreciate what former Chairman Byrd did for the tribe,” Berrey said. “I want the Quapaw Nation to move forward and focus on the Quapaw Nation’s families, youth and elders.”John Berrey, April 18,2023
Berrey said there is more tribal work that needs to be done, including bringing home the $137.5 million Bear Settlement money.
The Bear Settlement stems from unfulfilled treaty obligations and misuse of tribal lands and resources. The companion case, known as Goodeagle, was resolved with a $59 million payout to Quapaw Nation in 2020.
Berrey was also instrumental in the development of two large-scale luxury casino resorts – Downstream Casino Resort and Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff, Ark..
“We have so much to be proud of, and so much to look forward to,” Berrey said.
Berrey said the lawsuit against him and former Secretary-Treasurer Tamara Smiley-Reeves were trumped-up accusations.
The pair were charged in Quapaw Court in 2021. Berrey faces 11 criminal counts in tribal court, while Smiley-Reeves faces eight counts on charges they embezzled money from the tribe’s coffers.
“In the three years since this lawsuit was filed there has been nothing presented that we did anything wrong,” Berrey said.
Berrey said he was cleared by the FBI and the National Indian Gaming Commission.
“I wasn’t convicted and I didn’t do anything wrong,” Berrey said.
. Michon Hughes, Reeves’ attorney, said the FBI declined to pick up the case. The case is at a standstill, she said.
Online records show no trial date has been set.
“I think he (Berry) has already cleared his name,” Hughes said.
The tribe withheld Berrey and Reeves’s severance pay and paid time off money, she said.
“These lawsuits are embarrassing for the tribe and extremely bad,” Hughes said. “The inner fighting needs to stop.”
Hughes confirmed the Quapaw Nation Gaming Agency suspended Berrey and Reeves’s gaming licenses.