Judge OKs feds to seize property in dispute

ANCHORAGE — A federal judge has authorized the U.S. Marshals Service to seize the property of the losing side of a prolonged power dispute in one of Alaska’s most eroded communities.

A spokeswoman for the marshals’ Alaska office said, however, that no action will be taken in the western Alaska village of Newtok until the winning side files the necessary paperwork. The new leaders, the plaintiffs in the case, are seeking more than $6,000 in attorney’s fees and other costs, according to the writs of execution issued last month to three former leaders.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Mike Walleri declined to comment Wednesday, and current tribal administrator Tom John did not return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Andy Patrick, a member of the council that’s no longer recognized, said he doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong and is confused by the continuing court action.

“Why are they doing this to their own people?” he said in a phone interview Wednesday, adding his side has no attorney and no money.

The court earlier this year ruled that Alaska State Troopers could use force to evict the former leaders. But troopers declined to take action, saying they didn’t know who the rightful tribal leaders were and didn’t believe the order required any immediate action. The ex-leaders have refused to leave the tribal office.

The infighting in the community of 380 began in 2012 and stalled millions of dollars in government funds for relocation efforts in the flood prone village, among Alaska’s most imperiled communities because of aggressive erosion.

The former council lost its recognition as the village’s governing body from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2013. They appealed that decision, but the Interior Board of Indian Appeals upheld the bureau’s decision in August.

The two-page writs issued April 5 direct the marshals to “seize and take into execution the personal property” of the former leaders. The order does not specify the property, but says it could include “real property” if personal property is not sufficient.

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