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Red Lake bans federal official from reservation; tribal officials say hospital CEO unfairly disciplined employees

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Red Lake Nation has banned a federal Indian Health Service official from entering tribal lands.

Mark Karzon, CEO of the IHS hospital at Red Lake, was barred by an April 8 decision by the tribal council from entering the reservation, which also prevents him from reaching the hospital campus.

Tribal Council member Roman Stately said the ban was due in part to complaints against Karzon from the Red Lake community that Karzon was disciplining his employees without just cause.

"He was demoting a lot of the people who had been working at that hospital for 20, 30 years … bringing other people in that were nonmembers (of the Red Lake Nation)," Stately said Friday.

Stately said he was looking out for the best interests of his constituents by banning Karzon.

"I've got to look out for my people here," he said. "I don't know where he comes from, but he's not a member of the Red Lake tribe."

Tribal Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. said he felt the ban was unwarranted and the council voted to ban Karzon in part because the people Karzon allegedly disciplined were their relatives. "They were succumbing to the complaints of band members," Jourdain said of the council's decision. "It could have been explored, approached … more thoroughly. I think some of those decisions that council members made were based on emotions."

When asked if Karzon had demoted or fired people who were related to council members, Stately said, "Most of us are related around here."

Jourdain said he did not vote in the matter, and it is possible for the ban order to be rescinded.

"I basically said we should ... let the IHS do their investigation to find out" whether the complaints had merit, Jourdain said.

Jourdain said the effort to ban Karzon was led by Donald Cook, secretary of Red Lake. Attempts to reach Cook at his office were unsuccessful.

The IHS will undertake its own investigation of the complaints. Karzon declined to comment on the matter and referred questions to his superiors at the Bemidji area office of Indian Health Services.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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