HOLLYWOOD (CBS4) – The Seminole Tribe of Florida has a new chairman with a familiar name and face. Eight years after he was impeached as chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida amid financial scandal, James Billie was re-elected to his old job by a landslide on Monday.
Billie ousted two-term chairman Mitchell Cypress.
In polling 58.4 percent of the 1,757 votes cast, Billie led an electoral house-cleaning that saw several other long-entrenched tribal leaders defeated in bids to stay in office, according to results released by tribe spokesman Gary Bitner.
Among the losers were Hollywood council representative Max B. Osceola Jr., board of directors president Richard Bowers Jr., and David Cypress, the younger brother of Mitchell Cypress.
David Cypress was seeking to regain the Big Cypress reservation council seat he resigned last summer after the National Indian Gaming Commission announced an investigation of his spending.
Billie, 67, who led the Hollywood-based tribe for 23 years, started a high-stakes bingo operation in 1979. It opened the door to the multi-billion dollar gaming industry that has brought great wealth to the Seminoles and many other Native American tribes.
Gaming in Florida generates gross revenues of $2 billion a year, according to the Indian Gaming Industry Report, and most comes from the Seminoles’ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood and six other casinos in the state.
Billie, a charismatic but often controversial tribal leader, attempted a political comeback in 2007, charging that he was unfairly ousted four years earlier.
“In my heart, I’m still Chief of the tribe. They stole it from me,” he said in announcing his candidacy.
But at the last minute his name was stricken from the ballot after officials ruled he did not meet the residency requirement.
Billie could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The new officers will be sworn in on June 6, Bitner said.
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