ROOSEVELT Ute Tribe Security and Bureau of Indian Affairs police have been instructed to escort John Jurrius the tribe's former financial adviser off tribal trust lands if he shows up on the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation.
The Ute Tribe Business Committee unanimously adopted a resolution last week barring Jurrius from the tribe's 3 million acres of trust lands.
Jurrius' verbal resignation was accepted in August 2007. But that hasn't stopped him and his supporters from continuing to push for his return to involvement in tribal operations, said Business Committee Chairman Curtis Cesspooch.
"He realizes that he lost his gold mine and all the deals that he wrote himself into and now wants to get back into it," Cesspooch said. "His supporters feel that he's made us wealthy when all he did was shuffle our own money around."
Business conducted within Indian tribes typically lacks the checks and balances that would take place in traditional business settings, Cesspooch said. He claims that's what entices Jurrius to continue his efforts to be associated with the Ute Tribe, rather than pursue possible business opportunities with mainstream commerce. Former committee member Richard Jenks Jr. has voiced his opposition to the resolution that bans Jurrius from the reservation. In a letter to the editor in this week's Uintah Basin Standard, Jenks argues that tribal leaders have "stepped outside their authority" with the ban.
"The tribe does not have an expulsion ordinance ... to exclude Mr. Jurrius from the reservation by resolution is illegal and unconstitutional," Jenks said.
Jurrius served as the tribe's financial advisor for more than six years. Depending on what they believed about the controversial figure, tribal members saw him as either a scourge or a savior.
The current six-member committee ran successfully in two different elections on an anti-Jurrius platform. Their predecessors all Jurrius supporters were voted out of office.
Jurrius threatened on several occasions to leave the tribe. When he offered his resignation at a tribal meeting 10 months ago, elected leaders accepted. Jurrius supporters viewed the loss of his guidance as a calamity.
Jurrius has declined all requests for comment on his departure from the tribe.
Jurrius' supporters have organized to bring him back on board, maintaining he was the reason the tribe was able to financially flourish. He scored big for the Utes in making oil and gas companies pay for their use of tribal resources. But he also gave himself a 10 percent cut of all new oil- and gas-lease agreements.
Detractors say Jurrius had the good luck to start working for the tribe at the same time oil and gas prices began their climb. They maintain the increase in tribal revenues and royalties were largely independent of Jurrius' efforts.
Jurrius has been criticized for becoming involved in more than just tribal finances. Similar accusations dogged him while he was employed by the Southern Ute Tribe in Ignacio, Colo.
According to the resolution that prohibits him from coming on to the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation, Jurrius "continues to be involved with tribal affairs, that has caused a division in the membership of the tribe."
"We've had enough," Cesspooch said. "The powers of the Business Committee include safeguarding and promoting the peace, safety, morals and general welfare of the Ute Indian Tribe so the resolution is to exclude him from the reservation."