Michael Ashby formerly worked for the Ferndale Police Department
WHATCOM — Nooksack Tribal Interim Police Chief Michael Ashby has been named in a lawsuit brought forward by current Nooksack Tribal Council member Carmen Tageant.
The Seattle law firm Galanda Broadman leads the case.
Tageant alleges that Ashby, formerly a police officer with the Ferndale Police Department, physically assaulted and battered her in Deming as she attempted to file for reelection to the council a few months ago.
“As Ms. Tageant approached the front door of the Elections Board Office, defendant Ashby saw her, with application materials in hand, and locked the front door,” court documents state.
According to the documents, Tageant then knocked on the door, and Ashby let her in. She said she was there to file for reelection, and then election superintendent Katrice Rodriguez told her she was too late for that. Then, Tageant alleges, Ashby forcefully grabbed her arms and pushed her back.
She protested and evaded him and left the building.
According to court documents, when these actions allegedly occurred, the Nooksack Tribal Council lacked recognition by the federal government and Ashby lacked any law enforcement authority at a tribal or federal level.
Tageant’s attorney Gabriel Galanda said his client is suing Ashby as if he were a citizen of the state of Washington and not as the Nooksack tribal police chief. Galanda said he is using a decision of Lawrence S. Roberts, the principal deputy assistant secretary of Indian Affairs for the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, not to “recognize as lawful or carrying any legal effect the actions or decisions of the Nooksack Tribal Council after March 24, 2016.”
Furthermore, the alleged assault took place on tribally owned fee land in Whatcom County at Deming.
“The place where it happened was not tribal trust land,” Galanda said. “Land owned in fee by the Nooksack Tribe, jurisdictionally speaking, is not in the Nooksack Indian Reservation or in Indian country. We have sued Mike Ashby as Mike Ashby for the assault and battery of Carmen Tageant.”
The reason for this decision, Galanda said, is the Nooksack Tribal Council’s refusal to comply with its own laws regarding the quorum required by its constitution and bylaws. The terms of four of the tribal council’s members had expired, and they were not subsequently replaced by an election until later.
What this all comes down to, Galanda said, is that Ashby was allegedly not within his rights to act as a Nooksack Tribal Police officer or as the interim chief when he allegedly physically assaulted Tageant.
“If you don’t have authority to act as a tribal police officer under federal law or tribal law in Indian country, then you’re just a guy who put his hands on a woman,” Galanda said.
The lawsuit comes amid a tumultuous time for the Nooksack Tribe. More than 300 members have spent years fighting tribal leadership’s efforts to disenroll them from the tribe due to their allegedly having less than one-quarter degree of Indian blood.
Tageant is not a member of the so-called “Nooksack 306” facing disenrollment, but she has voiced her support of the group and her opposition to the disenrollment effort. She has brought forward another lawsuit against an unknown party, this one related to cyberbullying, and she says Ashby’s alleged actions and the alleged cyberbullying she has faced both come from people who disagree with hera views on the disenrollment.
“With disenrollment epidemics on the rise, I fear it opens the doors for people, like Nooksack chief of police Mike Ashby, who feed off power and control as an opportunity to act inappropriately,” Tageant said.
Ashby’s lawyers have moved to dismiss the case, and that motion is now pending in Whatcom County Superior Court.
Ashby was fired from the Ferndale Police Department in November 2004 for violating the chain of command and investigating then-police chief Dale Baker for policy violations. Ashby eventually received a $32,500 settlement from the city and a voluntary resignation from the department.
Ashby did not provide a comment for this story.