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Tribal courts toss Oklahoma candidate termination suit

August 21, 2020 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Native American tribal courts have dismissed a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by an Oklahoma Senate candidate who accused a tribe’s leader of firing him because he opposed a local mask mandate.

Shane Jett, a former Republican legislator currently in a run-off race for a state Senate seat, was terminated Aug. 10 as CEO of Community Development Corporations at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Earlier this month, Jett filed a lawsuit in the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s District Court, alleging that tribe Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett fired him because he opposed a proposed mask ordinance at a July 20 Shawnee City Commission meeting. In the lawsuit, Jett sought to be reinstated in his job and receive back pay.

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The tribal district court and Nation’s Supreme Court both denied Jett’s request, The Oklahoman reported Friday.

Meanwhile, Barrett has denied the allegation that Jett’s termination was politically motivated.

“The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of Jett’s lawsuit,” Barrett said. “Much like in the United States’ federal system, our Supreme Court has the final word on these matters, and we urge everyone to respect the Court’s decisions.”

Jett, a citizen of Cherokee Nation, is running against incumbent Sen. Ron Sharp for the Republican nomination in Senate District 17. The two candidates face off in Tuesday’s runoff primary.

As he pursues the state Senate seat, Jett said he will pursue the case in federal court, noting that he expected tribal courts wouldn’t rule against Barrett.

“That’s where I will get a fair hearing,” Jett said referring to federal court. “The Chief may be above the law in his own court, but he is not above federal law.”