In an [obtained] letter sent to Snoqualmie Indian Tribe members dated July 1, 2016, the Snoqualmie Tribal Council informed members that it had placed Tribal “Chairwoman, Carolyn Lubenau; Vice Chairwoman, Sharon Frelinger; and Chief Financial Officer, Windy Katherine Epps on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, effective immediately.”
The letter did not state the reason for the investigation, but did say as it was a pending investigation, it would not be fair to those involved to discuss the matter.
Multiple contact attempts with the Snoqualmie Tribe were unanswered, including Chairwoman Lubenau.
Lubenau and Frelinger were two of nine Snoqualmie Tribe members banished amidst a controversial election dispute in 2008. Tribe members overwhelmingly voted to reinstate all nine members in September 2009.
In 2013 Lubenau was elected Tribal Chairwoman. She has been an outspoken opponent of the City of Snoqualmie’s Tokul Roundabout project (completed this spring), as well as the Muckleshoot Tribe’s planned Salish Lodge expansion and 175 home development on land near the roundabout – land Lubenau has stated repeatedly is sacred.
The Tribe has run a fairly intensive, anti-development campaign over the past year, including multiple full-page newspapers ads against the roundabout and housing development, and sent out thousands of mailers depicting bulldozers at the base of Snoqualmie Falls. They also filed a lawsuit to stop the development, in addition to a well-publicized discrimination suit against the city.
The Save Snoqualmie Facebook page now has over 50,000 likes – although the City of Snoqualmie has always maintained the roundabout does not infringe on the Falls; helps improve vehicle and foot traffic on SR 202 near popular Snoqualmie Falls Park; and the future hotel expansion and development will occur on land already disturbed over the years by road construction and logging activity.
Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson said he was aware of the tribal investigation, commenting, “As I understand, it involves an internal dispute between a couple of factions within the Tribe about tribal business dealings.”
Larson added, “Meanwhile, our negotiations with the Tribe have come to another standstill while the clock is ticking on our one-year sewer services contract extension.”
Last year the City signed that one-year sewer contract extension with the Tribe for service to the Snoqualmie Casino. At that time, though, the City Council also voted to end services on November 30th when the contract extension was up.
That move led to the Snoqualmie Tribe filing a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city, which was later dismissed by a federal judge. Since then, the two parties had been negotiating terms and sewer needs for an ongoing service agreement.
There is no information regarding who has taken over the duties of Lubenau, Frelinger and Epps during the investigation, or when it might be completed. The letter sent to members was signed by Tribal Secretary, Alisa Burley.
According to a Tribe member who wished to remain anonymous, the three leaders do not reside in the Snoqualmie Valley area and Epps is the daughter of Lubenau.
That member added that only a small amount of the Tribe’s approximate 600 members currently reside in the Snoqualmie area and most can only guess about the reasons for the investigation – saying very little information has been provided.